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New biometric visa application system blocks foreign temporary workers from Canada


Temporary work visas have been denied to 11 Mexicans seeking work at fisheries in Eastern Canada after biometric tests showed they had previously been denied visas in the U.S., potentially exacerbating a chronic labor shortage, according to CBC News. Approvals for dozens more Mexican applicants have also been delayed pending a decision.

Rejection letters obtained by CBC News say the workers were denied for a “failure to be honest” on application forms, with one person rejected for failing to disclose a U.S. visa denial 13 years ago. Many seafood processing operations in Maritime Canada require injections of foreign labor to operate at capacity and preserve the jobs of local plant workers.

Nova Scotia shellfish processor Aquashell told the CBC that 10 of its 30 applicants were rejected for failing to disclose information, despite most previously being approved. The company says the rejections are “nothing to do with Canada,” and it may have to close its Lismore Seafoods plant. Another seafood plant owner said Mexican workers have been welcomed back each year and have not caused any problems in Nova Scotia.

The change has been caused by a new system which requires all non-U.S. entrants to Canada to provide fingerprints and a photo for visa applications. Since the system became applicable to visitors from Mexico and elsewhere in the Americas with the new year, automatic data-sharing with the U.S. has made new information available to Canadian officials.

“I do have a real concern if Canada now is following a U.S. lead when the president of the U.S. has made it clear that basically he doesn’t want people from Mexico or anywhere else coming into the country,” said Victoria Co-op General Manager Osborne Burke. “Why is Canadian immigration seemingly following U.S. refusals? I’d be very concerned that if somebody was refused a U.S. visa just on that basis alone that Canada would refuse them.”

CBC reports that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not clarify what would happen if a prior U.S. visa refusal was disclosed. The department says there are no “concerning trends” from the implementation of the new biometric requirement.

Canada’s Lobster Processors Association is seeking a separate seasonal temporary foreign worker program that could have different requirements.

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