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Landed immigrants without new Canadian indentity card may be stranded at foreign airports

Nearly 750.000 people still lack newly-requiredID

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

OTTAWA, Ontario - A dream vacation outside Canada could be the start of a nightmare for legally landed immigrants. So could be a return visit to the Netherlands for Dutch landed immigrants in Canada. Only those who managed to pass all the bureaucratic and user-unfriendly hurdles in obtaining a new wallet-size permanent resident (PR) card need not worry. The PR requirement takes effect on January 1, 2004.

Landed immigrants who want to re-enter Canada on a commercial carrier (airplane, boat, train or bus) will be prevented from boarding but may request a limited-use travel document from the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate to make the trip home. Because the requirements for the PR card were poorly publicized, many travel agents were not aware of the new identification card and its nearing deadline.

The attempt to put integrity back into the country’s system of travel documentation seems to significantly miss hoped-for targets. Officials statistics show that Canada is home to 1,5 million landed immigrants of whom only 770,000 have been issued the new identity card thus far. Immigration minister Elinor Caplan who was dropped from cabinet by Canada’s new Prime Minister Paul Martin, recently rejected suggestions that the December 31, 2003 implementation deadline be extended. The rejection raises the possibility of chaos at foreign airports and border crossings.

Border security issues

The PR card “increases Canada’s border security by improving the integrity of the immigration process,” according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The government hopes to solves its security problems with the PR card which carries encoded information, “accessible only to authorized officials.”

Citizenship and immigration sources extoll the state-of-the-art security features such as a laser-engraved photograph and signature, micro-text printing, tactile lettering and ultra-violet images. The PR card supposedly is highly resistant to tampering and illegal duplication attempts while providing transportation officials with a more effective means of identifying people with permanent resident status in Canada.

“The plan makes perfect sense on paper,” remarked one analist.”The implementation is something else. The procedure for obtaining all the forms and the payment method for the fees, and especially the need to pick up the PR card at one of a limited number of government offices, make it for many people difficult to comply with regulations.”