Author: Stephen Smith
Starting July 31, fingerprints and a photo will become mandatory for many people from Europe, the Middle East and Africa applying for a Canadian visitor visa, work or study permit, permanent residence or asylum in Canada.
Known as biometrics, the fingerprints and photo will be required for identification purposes. This requirement will be extended to Asia, Asia-Pacific and the Americas on December 31, 2018.
Travellers from visa-exempt countries who are coming to Canada as tourists with a valid Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) will not be required to provide biometrics. For a full list of exemptions, please see the end of this article.
The Government of Canada says the collection of biometrics will facilitate application processing and simplify entry into Canada for low-risk travellers.
All travellers between the ages of 14 and 79 must provide biometric information, except in asylum cases, for which there is no upper age limit.
The process of providing your biometric information only takes a few minutes and costs CAD $85 for an individual or CAD $170 for a family that is applying together.
How it works
Biometrics are used at both the application and entry into Canada phases. Biometrics allow visa officers to screen applicants for prior criminal convictions or Canadian immigration infractions. A traveller’s biometrics are also used when they enter Canada to confirm his or her identity.
Eight major Canadian airports will have self-serve Primary Inspection Kiosks where fingerprints will be verified, photos confirmed and travellers can make an on-screen declaration.
Fingerprint verification will be on a discretionary basis by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers at other Canadian airports and at land ports of entry.
Where to provide your biometrics
If you are outside Canada and applying for the first time, you can provide your biometrics at a Government of Canada-authorized Visa Application Centre (VAC) when you’re applying for a visa in person.
There are 137 VACs in 95 countries where an applicant can give their biometrics.
New VACs have also been announced and are scheduled to open as follows:
- Kigali, Rwanda — Stockholm, Sweden — and Tel Aviv, Israel: mid-September 2018
- Athens, Greece — Berlin, Germany — Lyon, France — and Vienna, Austria: early November 2018
- Antananarivo, Madagascar and Cape Town, South Africa: early December 2018
The federal government says more VACs will open in 2019.
Transitional biometrics collection service points will also open to applicants at the following Canadian missions in Europe:
- From July 31 to mid-September 2018: The Embassy of Canada in Stockholm, Sweden, for applicants from Sweden and neighbouring countries.
- From July 31 to early November 2018: The Canadian embassies in Athens, Greece; Berlin, Germany; and Vienna, Austria for applicants from Greece, Germany, Austria and neighbouring countries.
- From July 31 to early November 2018: The Immeuble Le Bonnel in Lyon, France for applicants from France and neighbouring countries.
Anyone applying online or by mail will need to obtain a Biometrics Instruction Letter from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and bring a printed copy of it to their nearest VAC.
In the United States, you can go to any of 135 Application Support Centers.
If you are applying in person in Canada, you will be able to give your biometric information at specified Service Canada locations starting in 2019. Until then, IRCC says anyone applying for a visa, study or work permit or permanent residence in Canada is exempt from the biometrics requirement.
How long are biometrics valid?
If you are applying for a visitor visa or work / study permit, you only need to give your biometrics once every 10 years. However, if you have an application refused and you later reapply, you will need to renew your biometrics.
If you are applying for permanent residence, IRCC says you will need to give your biometrics and pay the fee regardless of whether you provided your biometrics in the past to support a visitor visa, study or work permit application or a different application for permanent residence.
IRCC says fingerprints are encrypted and sent electronically to the Government of Canada’s secure Canadian Immigration Biometrics Identification System. Personal information is deleted from the collection system once it has been successfully transmitted to this database.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) will check an applicant’s fingerprints against the fingerprint records of:
- refugee claimants,
- deportees, and
- temporary resident applicants.
Any matches to existing RCMP records will be analyzed by the visa officer treating the application, who will use the information to make a final decision.
Canada shares biometric information with the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. IRCC says this is done in accordance with Canada’s privacy laws and civil liberties and human rights commitments, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Government of Canada keeps fingerprints on record for 15 years from the time you provide them. They are deleted after this time or if the applicant is granted Canadian citizenship.
IRCC says the following are exempt from having to provide biometrics:
- Canadian citizens, citizenship applicants (including passport applicants), or existing permanent residents;
- visa-exempt nationals coming to Canada as tourists who hold a valid Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA);
- children under the age of 14;
- 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.