ABU DHABI // Students and tourists hoping to travel to Canada face lengthy delays in obtaining a visa because diplomats at the Canadian embassy are on strike.
Staff at the embassy will continue to take visa applications but from today diplomats will not be there to approve them.
The industrial action is part of a series of rotating strikes by embassy staff that began in April in a pay dispute between the diplomats’ trade union and the Canadian government.
The strikes initially targeted three diplomatic missions but have since spread. Diplomats who approve visas will not be at work today in the Canadian embassies in Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, London, Paris, Beijing and 10 other cities.
It is not known how long the strike will last.
The industrial action will add to an existing backlog of applications, immigration consultants said yesterday. “This is not a good move,” said Mohammed Amini, a director at Unican Immigration in Dubai. “It’s going to affect our clients undoubtedly.”
“There has already been a slowdown in the application process,” said Ravi Lakhani, a consultant with Vision Consultancy in Abu Dhabi.
“This is likely just going to add to the backlog. From a consultant’s point of view, it’s not good for us because we’ll be losing revenue.
“From the view of our clients, these people are pinning their hopes on their application and getting a visa – be it tourist or immigration.”
The strike is likely to most affect anyone wishing to holiday in Canada, students who plan to start studying in the autumn, and individuals seeking to emigrate to the country, Mr Lakhani said.
“In the past two weeks I have submitted eight applications for student visas, six or seven applications for tourist visas and three for work permits.”
Citizenship and Immigration Canada said on its website: “Anyone applying for a visa should anticipate delays and submit their application as far in advance as possible.”
The Canadian embassy’s visa section in Abu Dhabi receives applications on Mondays and Wednesdays. The section is closed to the public on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, when its back office is normally bustling with activity, with diplomats approving visas on those days.
The embassy employs local staff who are not on strike. They will continue to take applications from individuals and from the outsourcing company VFS on Mina Road, which is contracted to receive applications on behalf of the embassy. They will input the data into the visa system but diplomats will not be in the office and so cannot approve visas.
McGill University in Montreal, a popular choice among students from the Arabian Gulf, said students who could not arrive by September 17 because their study permit had been delayed should contact the university by August 2, and it will arrange for them to begin their studies in January or in a later term.
Mr Lakhani said despite the inconvenience of the strike, it was not likely to dissuade Arabs from seeking visas, particularly for resettlement, to Canada.
“Whether you like it or not, most of the Arabs – especially where the trouble is – don’t have any options. Canada is a logical option. Most of the other options are closed. So they have to be patient,” he said.