HAVANA, Cuba, – Canada restored some visa services at its Embassy in Havana from August 1, 2019, including visa and biometric services, fingerprints and photos needed for applications done at the embassy, as well as drop off and pick up passports/visas.
This new announcement does not restore the full list of restricted services, but Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says it will make the process faster, easier and less expensive for applicants.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland met with Cuban officials in June said:
“I really want to reiterate that the measures that have been taken in our embassy in Cuba are in no way a political decision,” she added, “I have real sympathy for the Canadians and the Cubans who are facing some real difficulties as a result of this situation.”
The Canadian authorities suspended immigration proceedings due to unexplained illnesses among Canadian and US diplomats dating back to the spring of 2017.
Canada’s immigration minister Ahmed Hussen said “This decision wasn’t taken lightly,” a June statement from the his office read, adding “workers need to be protected.”
The mission staff has been infrequent since January after more than a dozen officials suffered headaches, dizziness, and nausea in Havana.
Last September, the US State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel assigned to its embassy in Havana, as well as all family members, over concerns that over the past several months, 21 US embassy employees have suffered a variety of injuries from attacks of an unknown nature. The affected individuals have exhibited a range of physical symptoms, including ear complaints, hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping. Investigators have been unable to determine who is responsible or what is causing these attacks.
“Until the government of Cuba can ensure the safety of our diplomats in Cuba, our embassy will be reduced to emergency personnel in order to minimize the number of diplomats at risk of exposure to harm,” [then] US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.
On August 14, the United States raised the American flag above the US Embassy. symbolizing the restoration of diplomatic relations after 54 years.