Starting July 31st, 2018, European, Middle Eastern and African citizens applying for a visitor visa, work/study permit, permanent residence, or refugee or asylum status must submit biometric information (photograph and fingerprints) as part of their application. This requirement will be further expanded come December 31, 2018 to applicants who are citizens of Asia, Asia Pacific, and the Americas (excluding US citizens who are applying for a work or study visa).
The biometric information collected will be used under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and its Regulations to determine whether the applicant has a criminal record, has previously been removed from Canada, or has used a different identity to enter the country. Applicant’s fingerprints may also be shared with law enforcement agencies in Canada and may be used for the enforcement of any Canadian or provincial law.
The Canadian government hopes that through collecting biometric data on applicants, they will be able to better protect against identity theft, health and security risks, as well as simplify the application process.
Upon receipt of a biometrics instruction letter from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the applicant will take the letter to a biometric collection service point and have their fingerprints collected and photograph taken in person.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will only collect biometric information in support of an existing application (in other words, you cannot collect the information in advance of an application).
If the applicant is in the United States, they may go to a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Application Support Center (ASC) or a Visa Application Centre (VAC).
If the applicant is outside of Canada or the United States, they may go to a Visa Application Centre (VAC). Temporary VAC locations have been opened in certain locations to support the service.
Visa-exempt foreign nationals eligible to apply for a work permit or study permit directly at the Port of Entry may have their biometrics information taken at the border upon their arrival in Canada. Depending on the location of entry, biometrics will either be automatically conducted at primary inspection kiosks or collected by RCMP officers or border services officers upon referral to secondary inspection. The RCMP has committed to a two-hour turnaround to review the biometric information, however responses have been generated within 15-20 minutes during the test phase.
Frequency of Collection
Applicants for a visitor visa, study permit or work permit, will only need to give their biometrics once every 10 years while applicants for permanent residence, will need to give their biometrics each time they apply
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency will retain discretion to waive the requirement for biometrics.
In addition, the following exceptions to the requirements apply:
- Canadian citizens, citizenship applicants, and existing permanent residents;
- Applicants under 14 years of age;
- Applicants over 79 years of age (excluding asylum claimants);
- Visa-exempt nationals requesting entry to Canada Canada as tourists who hold a valid Electronic Travel Authorization (“eTA”);
- Heads of state and government;
- Cabinet ministers and accredited diplomats of other countries and the United Nations coming to Canada on official business;
- S. visa holders transiting through Canada;
- Refugee claimants or protected persons who have already provided biometric information and are applying for a study permit or work permit; and
- Temporary resident applicants who have already provided biometric information in support of a permanent resident application that is still in progress.
The expansion of biometric data collection will result in additional processing costs for most immigration applications and longer wait times at the border, as a study or work permit may only be issued after biometric data has been successfully collected and assessed. Employers and their employees should be aware of these new requirements to ensure that business travellers will be permitted to travel to Canada on a timely basis.
If you have any questions about these policy changes or would like further information, contact the Toronto workplace immigration lawyers at Sultan Lawyers PC by telephone at 416-214-5111 or online.
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