Biometrics: Step-by-step collection procedures

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

This section deals with the step-by-step process of biometric information collection.

Note: This section does not address the procedures specific to each line of business. For more information on these procedures, see the following:

  • Temporary Resident Program
  • Permanent Resident Program
  • In-Canada Asylum Program
  • Overseas Resettlement Program

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Step 1: Verification

Verifying that biometrics enrolment can begin

The biometrics enrolment process can only begin in either of the following 2 circumstances:

  • An application is submitted at a visa application centre (VAC) by the applicant, and payment has been received for the biometric processing fee (unless the applicant is exempt from paying the fee).
  • A biometric instruction letter (BIL) is provided by the applicant as proof that the applicant has already submitted a complete application to an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) office and paid the biometric fee (unless the applicant is exempt from paying the fee).

If the applicant submits an application directly to IRCC, and they appear in person at the appropriate Service Canada location, Global Affairs Canada, any VAC or a United States (U.S.) Application Support Center (ASC) to provide their biometrics without a paper or electronic copy of the BIL, the applicant must be instructed to return when they have the BIL.

When temporary residence applicants use VAC services to process their applications, they must provide their biometrics at the same VAC if they are enrolling their biometrics upfront; otherwise, biometrics enrolment can occur at an alternative location, once they receive their BIL.

It is recommended that all stages of biometrics enrolment be conducted by the same biometrics enrolment operator to minimize the possibility of error.

Verifying identity

The biometrics enrolment operator must verify the applicant’s identity by doing all of the following:

  • confirm the travel document belongs to the applicant providing biometric information
  • ensure information on the travel document matches the information on the BIL or application
  • verbally confirm the biographical data from the travel document with the applicant
  • compare photographs on travel documents with the in-person appearance of the applicant
  • verify that the information on the travel document information page is the same as the biographical data entered in the Canadian Immigration Biometric Identification System (CIBIDS)

Step 2: Determining if the applicant is required to provide biometrics

Applicants must provide biometric information if they meet the defined criteria for biometric-required individuals and are not part of an exempt group.

For overseas resettlement applicants who fall under the scenarios below, officers should exempt the biometric requirement, under section 12.8 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, “impossible” or “not feasible”, until such time as the applicants become subject to deferred biometric enrolment, at a designated Canadian port of entry.

  • There is an Urgent Protection Program case, such as an exceptionally vulnerable case that requires accelerated processing, and biometric information cannot be collected in a timely manner.
  • Digital video conferencing is the only viable means of interviewing refugee resettlement applicants, due to country conditions (such as Iraqi cases out of Syria).
  • There are no eligibility concerns, and the officer’s assessment determines that there is no need for an interview, but the applicant is inaccessible to an IRCC officer.

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Step 3: How to administer the 1 in 10 policy

Only temporary residence applicants are eligible for the 1 in 10 policy. Those applying for permanent residence must submit their biometrics, even if they have previously provided biometrics as part of their temporary residence application. Applicants who are exempt under the 1 in 10 policy should not proceed to a U.S. ASC or Service Canada location while their biometrics are still valid. Because they are exempt from needing to provide biometrics, no BIL should be issued. If applicants wish to re-enrol their biometrics, they must inform IRCC, when submitting an online application, or the VAC agent, when submitting an in-person application.

When temporary residence applicants use VAC services to apply, they must self-disclose their eligibility for a biometrics exemption, under the 1 in 10 policy, to the VAC employee. Clients have the following sources to verify the validity of their biometrics:

If applicants wish to extend their biometric validity, they must self-identify to the VAC agent, if applying at a VAC, or to the IRCC officer, if submitting their application online or by mail.

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Step 4: Checking the applicant’s ability to provide fingerprints and photo

Before the fingerprinting and photo stages of the enrolment, the biometrics enrolment operator should do all of the following:

  • verify through a visual review the applicant’s ability to physically provide fingerprints and a photo
  • confirm that the applicant is able to provide 10 fingerprints that are free from foreign substances, such as glue, transparent tape or other shiny substances
  • accommodate as much as reasonably possible applicants with an impairment that prohibits them from providing adequate fingerprints or photos
  • note any relevant details in the CIBIDS notes

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Step 5: Enrolment session

The biometrics enrolment operators at VACs, Service Canada and IRCC offices use CIBIDS to enrol applicants. CIBIDS allows the biometrics enrolment operator to collect an applicant’s biographical data, fingerprints and live digital photographs as well as to enter relevant notes during the enrolment process.

The Canadian Immigration Biometric Identification System: Operator, Admin and Support Manual is the principal document that all biometrics enrolment operators must refer to for information on all of the following:

  • Logging in
  • Navigating the biometrics collection system
  • Completing a biometric session to capture biographical data and biometric information
  • Submitting biometric data packages, including exporting and importing
  • Viewing and adjusting administrative settings
  • Performing minor hardware maintenance procedures

CIBIDS is also capable of performing an enrolment in test mode for training purposes.

Enrolment session at VACs

Before beginning a biometrics collection session, biometrics enrolment operators at VACs must ensure that the video monitoring system (VMS) camera is turned on and captures key areas.

Biometrics collection must not take place at a VAC biometric work station, unless the VMS is turned on and functioning properly.

In the event that the VMS is not functioning, VACs must contact the Biometrics Operational Support Unit for further instructions.

Step 6: Entering observations and notes during enrolment session

During a biometrics collection session, there may be issues or points that the biometrics enrolment operator should bring to the attention of the IRCC officer. These notes should be recorded in CIBIDS.

For instructions on where to write notes in CIBIDS as well as the type and format of the notes, see the manual on How to Write Notes in CIBIDS.

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