European Union/United States/Canada: Visa-waiver reciprocity deadline nears

European leaders are meeting in Brussels to discuss the European Union’s visa waiver program for U.S. and Canadian nationals and to set out their position on a possible suspension of the visa waiver. In April, facing a legal deadline, the European Commission set a July 12 deadline for the Parliament and Council to take a position on the matter.

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What does the change mean? The issue is that the EU has lifted visa requirements for U.S. and Canadian nationals while the U.S. and Canada have not fully reciprocated for all EU nationals. Canada continues to require visas for nationals of Bulgaria and Romania, and the U.S. continues to require visas for nationals of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania.

In a joint statement Monday, the European Commission and Canada’s Immigration Minister announced that Canada will inform the EU in early autumn on its assessment and timelines for lifting visas for Bulgaria and Romania. The two Eastern European countries have threatened to veto a pending Canada-EU trade agreement unless Canada lifts visas for their citizens.

Background: According to EU law, full reciprocity is required under visa-waiver agreements, and a process is in place to suspend a visa waiver agreement when a country does not fully reciprocate on visa waivers. Under U.S. and Canadian law, however, countries are only permitted to participate in their visa-waiver programs if they meet certain criteria, such as low visa refusal rates, which the excluded countries do not yet meet.

BAL Analysis: A suspension of the visa waiver for U.S. or Canadian nationals is unlikely because of the serious negative economic, logistical and political consequences to Europe, as outlined in the European Commission’s April report.

It appears that Canada will continue to work toward lifting visa requirements and delay its assessment until fall, and it is hoped that the U.S. and the EU will also reach an agreement that avoids suspension of visa waivers. BAL is following the commission’s meetings and will report developments on this issue.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact uk@balglobal.com.

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