Even as other western countries like the UK and the US have been tightening immigration norms for Indians, Canada would be moving towards a liberalized visa regime for Indians in all categories including work, education, business and leisure, Chris Alexander, the country's minister for citizenship and immigration said in New Delhi on Monday.
While a faster, more efficient visa regime for frequent visitors from India was announced on Monday, Canada plans to offer six month processing for economic immigration programs starting next year.
The new policy, christened CAN+, was unveiled by Mr. Alexander in the presence of representatives of India's business, tourism and education sectors at Canada House in New Delhi.
The program is in operation in China and Mexico besides India, which is the only country in the southAsian region where Canada has offered this faster visa program.
CAN+ would be open to Indian nationals who have travelled to Canada or the United States of America within the last 10 years.
"I am very proud to launch the CAN+ program in India which will make it easier for Indians to visit Canada as tourists or to do business," said Mr. Alexander.
"Successful applicants will be grouped for bulk processing and put through our visa office on a priority basis...its being launched as a permanent program after a successful pilot program" he said.
What did liberalized immigration norms mean for Canada, while other western countries like the UK and the
US were tightening immigration norms for Indian citizens?
"We do know it will make us more competitive compared to our partners...we want to offer the same service or better...than our peer group," he said.
"Today's announcement is really about visitors for tourism - family or business...for work permits and study programs and immigration...nothing is changing today but all of that is getting faster as well… (from) January 1, 2015 we will offer six month processing for our economic immigration program...and this is a program that used to take 34 or more years," said Mr. Alexander.
The minister said the six month processing program would be attractive for "a different type of immigrant".
"Not everyone can wait and put their whole families' lives on hold...this will give certainty...for a group of people...(that) we want to know that Canada is open to them," he said.
With 1,30,000 visitor visas issued last year, India figures among the top 10 countries in terms of international visitors to Canada.
"On the growth agenda...we want to pursue a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement...we want to implement sectoral agreements across the board...we have made a lot of progress and we hope with this new government we will make more," said Mr. Alexander.
"(Our relations) will go further thanks to the vision we all share...thanks to probusiness governments in both countries...thanks to leadership that both countries have shown on global affairs on G20 and other fora and Afghanistan as well," said Mr. Alexander.