Canadian immigration officials deny travel visas to a large number of AI researchers and research students to attend a NeurIPS and Black in AI workshop. Among those denied entry is Tẹjúmádé Àfọnjá co-organizer of the NeurIPS Machine Learning Learning Workshop for Developing Countries of the AI Index 2018 Report. The conference is scheduled for December 8-14 in Vancouver, Canada.
On Tuesday, Black, co-founder of AI, and Google AI researcher Timnit Gebru announced that 15 out of 44 participants wishing to attend the workshop on December 9 were denied entry. Many cited the fear of immigration officials not returning home.
This never stops. So far this year, 15 out of 44 people who attend the @black_in_ai workshop at @NeurIPSConf (still in Canada) have been denied visas. That's 33%. We all had this press last year, it should help us this year.
– Timnit Gebru (@timnitGebru) November 6, 2019
This is the second year that the conference will be held in Canada. Last year, nearly half of Black's participants in AI workshops were also denied entry to Canada, Gebru. As can be seen from the participant year, Canadian immigration officials expressed concern in 2018 that participants would not leave the country after the conference.
The organizers of the International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR) responded to last year's visa situation. including the well-known Canadian explorer Yoshua Bengio, moved the ICLR 2020 to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
No Canadian government has been as committed as the current government to combat discrimination and promote inclusiveness, Bengio said a professor. He hopes visa problems will be the result of messages outside of Canada that have long been used to integrate the government's message in Ottawa.
"If the immigration authorities do not change their course, it is clear that this will discourage international politics conference organizers from organizing their events in Canada. It would also affect Canada's image, which has set this government as a place to host immigrants and fight discrimination and bias in their priorities, "Bengio told VentureBeat in an e-mail.
In an MIT Tech Review An interview about a year ago, Bengio cited travel restrictions on African AI researchers traveling to AI conferences – which are often held in the US and Europe – unfair and a serious problem.
A Canadian Immigration spokesperson refused to respond to questions about individuals applying for a travel visa, but the organizers of NeurIPS have been in contact since May and submitted a list of conference attendees on October 21 and November 2. Officials pointed out that applying for a travel visa by individuals takes into account a variety of factors, such as travel documents, the financial resources of a person or their family, and the economic condition of a person's home country.
I'm almost a PhD candidate On my way to candidacy in the US with an Indian passport and Canada, I was denied an ETA transit visa, citing reasons, and I quote "they are not satisfied that I have to leave Canada at the end of my stay (1 Hour 41 minutes transit)! " I mean, seriously ?! 🤷🏻♀️
– Adithi Deborah (@AdithiDeborah) November 7, 2019
VentureBeat contacted a spokesperson for the NeurIPS Organizing Committee to find out if any other researchers were at the NeurIPS conference or affiliated workshops want to participate have experienced similar rejections, but received no response before this story was published. Citing the experience of AI researchers trying to travel to key AI conferences, in September the partnership for AI – a conglomerate of large AI companies and humanitarian organizations – called on countries to issue special travel visas for AI researchers, as some have created for doctors or entrepreneurs.
Interviews and analyzes accompanying calls for a change in visa policy found that AI researchers from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe have reported difficulties in obtaining a travel visa for attending AI conferences. Respondents also expressed concerns that refusing a visa to both the person denying entry and the wider AI research community meeting at conferences to exchange insights, working with peers and reviewing the latest or most recent AI systems could cause harm.
"As mentioned in our visa policy document, today's visa application systems limit the diversity of ideas needed for scientific progress and a responsible AI. Governments should consider practices that speed up the verification of visa applications, create AI visa classifications, train officials in the language of emerging technologies, and empower officials to assist claimants in resolving disputes that would otherwise lead to a refusal or delay to approval can. "Partnership on AI Lisa Dyer, Director of Policy, said in a statement to VentureBeat.