Biometrics and identity management: Overview

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

Identity management

Identity management is key to the integrity of program and service delivery at IRCC. The department plays a lead role in establishing and managing the identity information of foreign-born residents and Canadians. Identity management spans a continuum of programs and services including:

  • temporary residents
  • permanent residents
  • refugees
  • citizenship
  • passport

Identity information must be accurately and securely managed to facilitate service delivery and mitigate risks relating to:

  • identity theft
  • fraudulent use of identity documents
  • improper granting of status or entitlement
  • inappropriate allocation of benefits and services
  • financial losses
  • a breach of a client’s right to privacy

Additionally, ensuring IRCC has confirmed an individual’s identity with certainty bolsters every future interaction the individual has with the Department, resulting in positive downstream impacts for other government departments and provinces and territories that also rely on the identity that IRCC has established.

Given this context, IRCC recognizes four core identity attributes that must be collected from all clients in order to establish a person’s identity with confidence:

  • name
  • date of birth
  • place of birth
  • biometrics

The program delivery instructions on identity management provide guidance regarding the establishment of identity records in IRCC systems for the following lines of business:

  • citizenship
  • permanent residence
  • temporary residence
  • refugee protection


Canada’s immigration biometric collection program consists of:  

  • biographic data
  • a digital photograph
  • all fingerprints

Biometric information, specifically fingerprints, is used to anchor the identity of applicants at the time of an application. It also serves as a program integrity tool. IRCC requires applicants to provide biometric information for the following reasons:

  • to strengthen identity management by fixing the identity of applicants at the time of application and ensuring that the same identity is maintained in future dealings with the Government of Canada;
  • to enhance security by checking the identity of the applicant against Canadian criminal and immigration records;
  • to improve program integrity by supporting informed decision-making and by creating conditions in which irregular migrants, previously refused applicants, previous deportees and people-smugglers and traffickers can no longer exploit identity loopholes; and
  • to facilitate the processing of legitimate applicants by reducing the time taken at IRCC offices and ports of entry to re-establish or reconfirm their identities.

The program delivery instructions on biometrics collection and screening provide guidance regarding biometrics collection, screening and verification, and provide context for users to understand the policy, its use and the disclosure rules associated with biometrics at IRCC.

Information sharing at IRCC

Biometrics and identity management rely at times on the sharing of personal information and records for various purposes covered in memoranda of understanding and other agreements with IRCC international and domestic partners, while protecting the information security of Canadians and others.

For more information

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