AMRITSAR, INDIA--(Marketwire - Jan. 11, 2013) - Canada's Chandigarh office has issued a record number of visitor visas in 2012, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today.
In 2012, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) officials issued a record number of visitor visas in India's Punjab region - approximately 17,608, almost three times more than were issued in 2005. As well, approximately 80% of visitor cases processed at missions in India in this year were finalized in five days or less, a major improvement over the 12-day processing time over the same period last year.
"I am pleased to announce that a record number of Indians from the Punjab region visited Canada last year and that the percentage of applicants approved for a visitor visa has increased significantly," Minister Kenney said. "As the cultural and commercial ties between our countries grow, it is good news that more Indians are visiting Canada under our faster, fairer immigration system."
Minister Kenney also highlighted that, with a 54% approval rate, Canada continues to maintain record high levels of student permits issued to the Punjab region. In 2012, Canada issued approximately 5,200 student permits from Chandigarh, up from 173 in 2004 when the mission first opened.
The Minister also lauded the success of the new Super Visa for parents and grandparents. Launched one year ago, the Super Visa is allows parents and grandparents to visit their loved ones in Canada for as long as two years at a time. There were over 3,700 Super Visas issued from CIC's Chandigarh mission in 2012, with an approval rate of 80% and average processing times of less than eight weeks.
In addition to benefiting from recent changes to Canada's immigration system, the record numbers are also due in part to good work by law enforcement agencies in both Canada and India to detect and deter fraud. For example, in December, Punjab updated the Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, which would provide for a minimum three-year prison sentence for consultants who operate without a licence or engage in other fraudulent activities. Less fraud means higher approval rates and faster decisions.
While in Amritsar, Minister Kenney met with the Chief Minister of Punjab, Prakash Singh Badal, to discuss the progress of joint anti-fraud initiatives in India.
"I wish to thank the Chief Minister and his officials for their continued efforts to crack down on immigration fraud and eliminate illegal activity," said Minister Kenney. "International cooperation is a significant part of CIC's strategy to eliminate fraud and make immigration faster for legitimate refugees and permanent residents."
In addition to supporting anti-fraud efforts overseas, CIC has also strengthened the rules governing immigration consultants in Canada. CIC now has the authority to pass on any information regarding the misconduct of an immigration consultant, a lawyer, a paralegal or a notary to the responsible bodies that regulate them.
In 2012, CIC introduced new regulations to prevent fraudsters using marriages of convenience to gain entry to Canada. Newlywed sponsored spousesare now required to live in a legitimate relationship with their sponsors for two years from the day they receive their permanent resident status in Canada or risk having their status revoked and being removed from Canada. And, even if their marriage ends after two years, sponsored spouses must now wait five years from the day they were granted permanent resident status before they can apply to sponsor a new spouse of their own.
"India continues to remain one of Canada's top source countries for immigrants and visitors," Minister Kenney said. "These increased figures show that our recent changes make it possible for a growing number of travelers to visit Canada."
Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CitImmCanada
A photo of Minister Kenney will be available later today.
Building a stronger Canada: Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) strengthens Canada's economic, social and cultural prosperity, helping ensure Canadian safety and security while managing one of the largest and most generous immigration programs in the world.