TIM Uppal, Minister of State for Multiculturalism, announced on Friday at the Pravasi Punjabi Divas Sammelan conference in Anandpur Sahib that Canada is a destination of choice for visitors, students and business travellers from India. A high number of visitor visas (84,672) and study permits (13,613) were issued from Canada’s Chandigarh and New Delhi offices between January and December 2013

The Business Express Program (BEP), in place in India since June 2008, is another example of Canada’s commitment to facilitating linkages between our two countries. The BEP was created to provide qualified businesses and their employees with a number of service advantages, including less paperwork, priority processing of visa applications, and a dedicated service to respond to the needs of those within the program.

Several new tools have been put in place to attract visitors to Canada and facilitate their travel. For example, in July 2011, the duration of multiple-entry visas was extended from five to ten years, allowing visitors to enter and exit Canada for up to six months at a time over a ten-year period. In addition, parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents are now eligible to apply for the new Parent and Grandparent Super Visa, which is also valid for up to ten years and allows parents and grandparents to remain in Canada for up to 24 months at a time.

* The number of visitor visas issued in 2013 represents an increase of 73% since 2008.

* The number of study permits represents an increase of more that 321% since 2008.

* Between January and December of 2013, 2,793 visas were issued under the BEP.

Uppal said: “Canada and India share close people-to-people ties, which are demonstrated by the large numbers of Indians coming to Canada to work, study and visit.”

He added: “I am pleased to announce that Canada continues to be a destination of choice for visitors, students and business travellers from India, as shown by the substantial increase since 2008 of visitor visas and study permits from the Punjab region.”