Canada changes visa process for HIV-positive visitors – an example for the US?

As a result of ongoing discussions between government departments, the organisers of the XVI International AIDS Conference (AIDS2006) due to be held in Toronto in August 2006, and others, Canada no longer requires people applying for visas as short-term visitors to disclose their HIV status on the application form.

Previous immigration policy

Canadian immigration law provided that a person may be denied a visa or entry to the country as “medically inadmissible” if:

a) they are “likely to be a danger to public health or public safety”; or b) they “might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services” – and specifically, if they would add to waiting lists for services and thereby add to morbidity or mortality as a result of denial or delay of these services for Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Generally, neither of these grounds applies to a person living with HIV/AIDS seeking to enter the country as a visitor on a short-term basis (i.e., under 6 months).

  • HIV is not a casually communicable infectious disease (unlike tuberculosis). It is Canadian government policy that people living with HIV/AIDS do not represent a danger to public health or safety by virtue of their HIV status.
  • Similarly, Canadian policy states that a person living with HIV/AIDS entering the country on a short-term basis “would not normally be expected to place a demand on health services”.

Canada has now amended its application form for a “temporary resident visa” to change the health-related questions posed to visa applicants. In May 2005, the new visa application form was implemented by CIC.

As a result of the recent change, Canada does not require people applying for a visa to enter Canada as a short-term visitor to disclose known HIV infection on the visa application form.

For more information:

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network’s website



This positive approach to allow HIV-positive individuals the right to travel could easily be adopted by the USA which still maintains a discriminatory policy that includes HIV as a barrier to enter the country. This is why IAS conferences are no longer held in the USA.

Current US policy does not include either visiting family or vacation as a reason to grant a visa for an HIV-positive person. Advice for HIV-positive individuals to apply for a visa for these reasons will not help them visit the US.

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