For over 20 years already, biometrics have been used to support immigration screening and decision-making in Canada. In 2009, Canada started biometric-based information sharing with each of its Migration Five parties in limited volumes. Since then, new arrangements have been signed and regulations passed to allow for a high volume system to system information exchange.
As of January 1, 2019, the biometric screening program was expanded to all foreign nationals applying for a visitor visa, study or work permit (excluding U.S. nationals) or permanent residence as well as all asylum seekers and refugee claimants. This screening brings Canada in line with other countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, which are already using biometrics for immigration and border security purposes. What Are Biometrics? Simply put, biometrics are finger prints and a digital facial photo. Once provided, the fingerprints and photo are encrypted and sent electronically to a secure database at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The personal information is automatically entered into IRCC’s case processing system. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) then check the fingerprints against criminal, refugee claimant, deportee and temporary resident application records. If the RCMP finds no adverse information, the case officer will be notified electronically and will complete the application processing. If there is any adverse or ambiguous information from the RCMP, the information is analyzed by a central assessment unit managed by the IRCC before being passed on to the migration officer for a final decision about the application. Once a final decision is made, the information is sent to the Canada Border Services Agency’s case-processing system. What Is The Process To Provide Biometrics? If you are a foreign national seeking a visitor visa, a study or work permit (excluding U.S. nationals), permanent residence, refugee or asylum status, you are to pay the biometrics fee when submitting your application or you may experience a delay. Upon paying the biometrics fee, you will receive an instruction letter stating that you must provide biometrics, where you can go, and the required deadline to do so. It is important that you take action as soon as possible upon receipt of the letter as you have 30 days from its issuance to get the biometrics done, in person, which you may need to make an appointment for. If no biometric service is available where you live, you may need to plan for extra time to travel to a service location. Presently, the cost to obtain biometrics is CAD $85 for each individual applicant, $170 for family members applying at the same time, and $255 for groups of 3 or more performing artists and their staff to apply for work permits at the same time. There is no fee to give biometrics for a transit visa. Why Are Biometrics Being Requested? Biometrics are being collected for identification and security purposes. The plan internationally is to strengthen identity management, counter fraud and reduce the abuse of immigration programs. Governments want to make certain in a quick, efficient manner that the individuals wishing to enter the country at the border are the same individuals who were approved overseas. In addition to facilitating application processing, enhancing safety, and preventing identity theft, having biometrics in place can ease the entry and exit for low-risk travelers and resolve problems or errors more quickly where two people have a similar name, date of birth and/or place of birth. Upon arrival in Canada, eight major Canadian airports will have self-serve primary inspect kiosks where fingerprints will be verified, photos confirmed, and travelers can make an on-screen declaration. At the additional airports and land ports of entry, discretionary fingerprint checks may be conducted by a board services officer upon referral to a secondary inspection. When Are My Biometrics Required? Most people between 14 and 79 years old are required to provide biometrics when applying for a visitor visa, a study or work permit (excluding U.S. nationals), permanent residence, refugee or asylum status. For some matters, you need to give your biometrics before your application is processed, such as for a visitor visa, study or work permit, and the time it takes you to provide your biometrics is not included in the application processing time. If you apply for permanent residence, you will need to provide your biometrics and pay the fee each time you apply, and the time it takes you to give your biometrics is included in the application processing time. There are some exceptions to providing biometrics, including for tourists from visa-exempt countries with valid electronic travel authorizations, Canadian citizens, Canadian citizen applicants, existing permanent residents of Canada, visa-exempt nationals coming to Canada to visit only and U.S. visa holders transiting through Canada, among others. If you have an alien’s passport (a travel document from where you live as a non-citizen), you will need to give your biometrics, regardless of the country that issued the passport. Once provided, your biometrics will stay on file for a 10-year period, even if a visitor or permanent application is refused or has expired. To apply for permanent residence, biometrics must be paid for and provided regardless of whether they were provided in the past to support a visitor visa, study or work permit application or a difference application for permanent residence. What about My Privacy? In Canada, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner ensures appropriate measures are in place to protect personal information when your biometric information is collected, used and shared. You will receive a privacy notice which will inform you how, and to what extent your personal information will be used and kept. Technical safeguards are in place to ensure your information is collected, stored and transmitted securely using encryption. Once the information is transmitted to the Canadian Immigration Biometrics Identification System, your information is deleted from the collection system. Your information would only be shared with partner countries as required, with respect to privacy laws, civil liberties, and your human rights, including those in the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms. Speak To an Immigration Consultant or Lawyer in Calgary At Phoenix Legal If you would like to find out if you are eligible to come to Canada, our Calgary law firm can assist you. With over 28 years of legal experience, Abdul Souraya provides a variety of immigration services, including applications for permanent residence, temporary residence, citizenship applications, immigration appeals, federal court removal, and more, including business immigration and family sponsorship. For a Calgary immigration consultant or lawyer, call our office today at 403-568-3000 or complete the online form. We offer services in English, French and Arabic. Virtual service is available around the world.