Canada, here we come!

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Canadian immigration authorities announced that as of the 1st of March citizens of Lithuania no longer need a temporary resident visa to visit Canada. I discovered the news on the website of the largest daily in Lithuania. It was published in the section "Emigrants", as if to suggest that Canada might become the next target country for possible Lithuanian emigrants. On the other hand, Lithuania boasts the highest rate of emigration per capita in the European Union, so the suggestion could be farsighted. Although we are allowed roam the vast expanses of Canada for up to 180 days, if we intend to work or study there, visa restrictions still apply. Yet, as one jolly commentator observed, it shouldn't be too complicated to find a job in six months...

Myself and a few friends of mine have been looking forward for the decision. One of them, a keen traveller, suggested to worm our way discreetly to the States across the Canadian border. If Barack Obama becomes the next president of the USA, we might as well. Yet our anticipation was not caused by intentions to move the country again.

"All animals are equal but some are more equal than others", wrote George Orwell half a century ago. In a similar way I am tempted to say that all Europeans are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Until 2004 Canada and the European Union had a reciprocal visa-free status for visitors, yet before Lithuania along with other nine countries joined the EU, we had to drop down visa requirements for Canadians. In return Canada was expected to do likewise, yet it was hesitant, since their politicians were afraid of a possible influx of illegal workers or refugee claimants. The only two remaining EU countries, which citizens will still have to queue in front of Canadian embassies, are Romania and Bulgaria.

I have to confess, it feels good to be acknowledged as a member of the club rather than a potential threat. Let them keep the restrictions for entering the a labour market, but at least it will be easier to see the Niagara Falls or Montreal. Of course, a few of us, while sightseeing, could and will look for work opportunities. After all, Vancouver and Montreal are constantly voted in various polls as some of the best places to live in the world. Even if just for 180 days. I guess, in a way the Canadian government could have been right in procrastinating the decision. Yet when the EU labour market is within two or three hours of flight for 50 Euros, a massive influx of illegal Lithuanian immigrants could hardly become a reality. Therefore it would be great if more countries stopped demonising us as cheap illegal migrants. Consequently, maybe more of us could realise that flying to other destinations than Lithuania costs almost the same, yet instead those trips offer new experiences rather than nostalgia, in which we seem to be stuck too often.

Recently I came across the fact that Estonians are the only ones from the Baltic countries who can apply for working holiday visas in Australia and New Zealand. I am amazed how they manage to avoid the segregation that continues to haunt Lithuanians. Although they are further from the geographical European centre, which Lithuania was boasting to possess before Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, all the Estonians I have met seem to be a zillion times more European than Lithuanians. No wonder they are welcome even to such remote corners of the world. Or perhaps, as I have always suspected, their politicians exceed Lithuanian - ours are too busy with unsuccessfully trying keep the people in the country or win them back from the construction sites in the UK, mushroom factories in Ireland and orange plantations in Spain. The more they try to cage us in between Lithuanian borders, the more we seem tempted to leave.

In the meantime, the antiemigration campaign in Lithuania continues. A few weeks ago elite troops of Lithuanian businessmen, joined by a group of barristers and journalists, met with a handful of Lithuanians studying in the United Kingdom and were encouraging them to consider returning to Lithuania. Although everybody agreed that Lithuanian companies can't offer as competitive salaries as London City firms, among other supposedly attractive factors one barrister mentioned the possibility to meet Lithuanian prime minister and celebrities in person, while this might not be as easy to achieve in the UK. I'd rather watch the Niagara Falls. Or wander the streets of Vancouver. Even if just for 180 days.

Written for "Metro Eireann"

This Post has 1 Comment Add your own!
Christophe - March 27, 2008 at 12:42 AM

Good article Lina, unfortunately written through hard experience...

Vancouver is a wonderful city, I hope you go and visit and live there if you wish...

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