Canada lifts visa requirement for Latvia and the Czech Republic

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Immigration Minister Diane Finley announced that citizens of Latvia and the Czech Republic will no longer require a visa to visit Canada.

In a recent report presented to the European Council, the European Commission stated that they wanted visa restrictions lifted for all EU member states. Canada's announcement of visa-free travel for Latvian and Czech citizens appears to be a move towards this goal.

"After careful analysis, Canada has determined the visa requirement for the Czech Republic and the Republic of Latvia will be removed," Finley said. "Canada enjoys strong ties with both of these countries, and lifting the visa requirement will help us build on those relationships to the benefit of Canadians and the citizens of the Republic of Latvia and the Czech Republic."

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has been reviewing visa requirements for the new states that joined the European Union in 2004 and 2007. Canada recently added Cyprus, Malta, Estonia, and Slovenia to the list of EU countries that do not require visas.

CIC stated that they will continue to work with the rest of the new EU-member states to "analyse the impact of lifting visa requirements" with the aim of having visa-free travel for all EU citizens as soon as possible. European Union states that still require a visa include Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.

"We look at the risks and benefits of visa-free travel to Canada, to see if a country warrants having the visa requirement removed," Finley said. "We are committed to the free and secure movement of people between the EU and Canada. We are also committed to the objective of visa-exempt status for all EU member states."

By law, Canada requires temporary resident visa, except for citizens of countries where an exemption has been granted. In 2006, Canada issued 7,300 temporary resident visas to Czech citizens and 1,100 temporary resident visas to citizens of Latvia.

Visa-free status for citizens of both countries is effective immediately.