Ottawa: Canada is expanding its biometrics collection program. Starting December 31, 2018, nationals from countries in Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas will need to give their fingerprints and photo (biometrics) when applying for a visitor visa, study or work permit, or for permanent residence. This same rule has applied to applicants from countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa since July 31, 2018.
Having biometrics makes it easier for immigration and border services officers to stop individuals who pose a risk to the safety and security of Canadians. It also helps officials verify travellers’ identities, makes processing applications easier and simplifies entry for legitimate travellers.
The biometrics requirement adds a new step in the application process. Applicants need to go in person to give their biometrics. Most will do this at a visa application centre (VAC) before they come to Canada.
The Government of Canada has been taking steps to make the biometrics process as smooth as possible. This includes expanding its worldwide network of VACs: there are now 152 VACs in 103 countries and allowing applicants to go to any VAC in any country they are legally allowed to enter. If already legally in the United States, applicants can go to one of 135 Application Support Centers.
The Government of Canada continues to closely monitor the impact of requiring biometrics to ensure that the level of service available meets the needs of applicants. Canada will be providing periodic biometrics collection services in specific locations as needed. More information on additional services will be announced at a later date.
There are also facilitative measures for those who make repeat visits to the country. For example, those coming to visit, study or work temporarily will only need to give their biometrics once every 10 years.
The Government of Canada takes its privacy obligations very seriously and has been working with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to protect applicants’ personal information when collecting, using and sharing biometric information. Canada’s policies are based on the best practices of international partners, who are increasingly relying on biometrics.
Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said: “Collecting biometrics from most foreign travellers coming to Canada makes sense on so many levels: it strengthens the integrity of our immigration system, while helping protect the safety and security of Canadians. Not only does biometrics collection give us a reliable, accurate tool to establish a traveller’s identity, but it also improves our ability to process applications and the entry of people upon arrival in Canada”.
- More than 70 countries are using biometrics in their immigration programs.
- Biometrics have been required from applicants in support of temporary resident visa, work permit or study permit applications from 29 visa-required countries and 1 territory since 2013.
Some exemptions to biometrics expansion include:
- Canadian citizens, citizenship applicants (including passport applicants), or existing permanent residents
- children under the age of 14 and applicants over the age of 79 (there is no upper age exemption for asylum claimants)
- heads of state and heads of government
- cabinet ministers and accredited diplomats of other countries and the United Nations, coming to Canada on official business
- U.S. visa holders transiting through Canada
- refugee claimants or protected persons who have already provided biometrics and are applying for a study or work permit
- temporary resident applicants who have already provided biometrics in support of a permanent resident application that is still in progress
- Visa-exempt nationals coming to Canada as tourists do not have to give their biometrics. However, they will need to give biometrics if applying for a study or work permit, or for permanent residency.