Belize Government Optimistic About Schengen Visa Waiver Approval from EU
The Government of Belize is hopeful that the member countries of the European Union will approve the waiver for Schengen visas for Belizeans. A few weeks ago, Prime Minister John Briceno met with officials, and pointed out several factors including the absence of a European Union consul in Belize, as well as the fact that an increasing number of CARICOM Member States’ nationals do not require a Schengen visa. Foreign Affairs Minister, Eamon Courtenay, spoke on the matter.
Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “We have been working very hard with the European Union, the European Commission specifically and the member states of the European Union to apply for a visa waiver for Belizeans wishing to travel to those countries within the European Union that have the Schengen Visa. Those discussions are well advanced. When we were in Brussels last month the Prime Minister had an occasion to meet with Commissioner Johnson who is responsible for this area and we had a very positive and constructive discussion. We have had consultations with every single member state and we have been getting a significant number of assurances that they support Belize’s request. Now the new list of countries that would qualify for a visa waiver has not yet been announced. What we are fighting for is to encourage the European Union that when they’re considering the list to ensure that Belize is on that list. What I would say is based on all our preparation, based on all the documents that we have provided to the European Union we have a very strong case and the European Union has accepted that but they haven’t made a final decision as to which other countries they’re going to grant that waiver to.”
The Government is also looking into some challenges regarding Canadian visas. In order for a Belizean to access a Canadian visa, they would have to travel abroad to apply, and there is a lag in the process.
Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “We have a difficulty also with Canada. Belizeans have been complaining bitterly to me and I have had to intervene at the Ministerial level on a number of occasions. There is a significant delay in the approval of visas for Belizeans who want to go to Canada. Again I have just written to Minister Miller the new immigration minister of Canada. I have spoken earlier this week with the Ambassador of Canada she is resident in Guatemala on this issue and so I have asked for a meeting with my counterpart in Canada to see if we can address this issue. At this stage we’re being told that the delay in processing a visa for a Belizean wishing to go to Canada is over three hundred days, that is not acceptable. My understanding is that Canada has outsourced the processing of their visas so it’s not being done by the Government of Canada itself first point. The second point is according to them, a bit difficult for me to understand, according to them because of COVID there is a significant backlog and they’re trying to clear that backlog and in clearing that backlog those new requests are delayed. But over three hundred days is difficult to understand.”