Consulate in Buffalo to be shuttered after visa rules changed

OTTAWA— Globe and Mail Update

Canada’s big consulate in Buffalo will be shut down as the Harper government has decided it can be sacrificed to cost cuts now that it’s no longer a hotspot for processing visas.

For decades, foreigners living in Canada have trooped to the upstate New York consulate to renew visas – because of rules that they had to apply from outside Canada. But now that those rules have been scrapped, the consulate is going, too.

Ottawa has already announced that it will close four other consulates, in Philadelphia, Phoenix, Raleigh, and Anchorage, because of budget cuts. Now Buffalo, a large diplomatic mission with about 75 employees, will be the fifth.

Most of those employees, about 45, work in processing visas, often renewals, and many of those are U.S. citizens hired locally. They are set to be laid off after the closure is officially announced Tuesday.

An official with Citizenship and Immigration Canada said that now that immigration applications can be made electronically, there’s no longer a need for a big staff in Buffalo processing them, and because of the new rules, immigration interviews can be done in Canada. Once the immigration department made its decision, the Foreign Affairs Department decided it didn’t need to keep the rest of the mission. “Our consulate in New York City will cover all of NY state,” said a government source.

The government insists the closures of consulates in the U.S. are not a statement on bilateral relations, but just efforts to use money efficiently. Junior foreign minister Diane Ablonczy noted that Canada has more than 20 missions in the U.S., and argued the closures are only “modest” reductions.

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