Only 1 week left until expansion of biometrics requirements
Starting July 31, 2018 more applicants will need to provide biometrics when they apply for a visitor visa, work or study permit or permanent residence in Canada. Until now, biometrics were only required from applicants from a small number of countries but with this expansion, most applicants will be impacted. Notable exemptions include:
- Canadian citizens, citizenship applicants, or existing permanent residents;
- Visa-exempt nationals coming to Canada as tourists who hold a valid electronic Travel Authorization (eTA);
- Applicants under the age of 14 and over the age of 79 (however, there is no upper age limit for asylum claimants);
- Heads of state/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; and
- Temporary resident applicants who have already provided biometrics in support of a permanent resident application that is still in progress.
For applicants from Europe, the Middle East and Africa these increased requirements will come into effect on July 31, 2018, with applicants from Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas to follow on December 31, 2018. For applicants already in Canada, the biometrics requirement will only be implemented in 2019, as in-Canada collection points have not been set-up as of yet. Visas obtained before the deadline stay valid and it is not mandatory to provide biometric data until advised.
Applicants will need to provide digital fingerprints and photographs during the application process. To provide biometric data, applicants will be required to visit existing Visa Application Centres (VACs) closest to them. So far, there are 137 locations available in 95 countries worldwide with the announcement of more to follow later in 2018 and 2019. However, for certain work and study permits applications, the biometrics can be collected at select ports of entry (POEs). Once biometric data is collected, it will be used for a ten (10) years, and only has to be provided again after this period passes. There is a fee of CAD$85 for individual applicants and of CAD$170 for families applying together.
After the biometrics are obtained, they are encrypted, transferred electronically and stored in a secure government database for 15 years, or until Canadian citizenship is granted, whichever comes first. After this period passes, biometric data is deleted permanently. The main purpose of biometrics is to confirm applicant identity, and will be used at Canadian visa offices abroad as well as at POEs . Furthermore, the Canadian government will also engage in information sharing with the government of the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom.
This expansion of the collection of biometric data adds another layer of complexity to the already ever-changing Canadian immigration processes. While the importance of national security initiatives cannot be understated, the implementation of these new measures begs the question as to who the real winners will be. The implementation of the eTA was supposed to be the mechanism, which allows the Canadian government to screen and prevent irregular entries to Canada. Clearly, this is considered insufficient for all applicants, and thus limited to only visitors from visa-free countries arriving in Canada for tourism and entering by air. The new biometric initiative will add additional costs to applicants, and will also add additional processing times to those making applications outside of Canada. In similar fashion to the eTA, the implementation begins haphazardly, with no in-Canada collection points set up at the time of the new requirements becoming mandatory.
Dale & Lessmann LLP invites you to contact our experienced Immigration Practice Group for assistance in answering questions about the contents of this post, or if you require assistance in determining whether the new biometric regulations affect you.