Biometrics: Step-by-step collection procedures

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

This section provides the step-by-step process for biometric information collection.

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

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

On this page

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 their BIL, the applicant must be advised that the collection cannot take place and be instructed to return when they receive their 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 an applicant’s 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 that 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.

Learn more:

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 these applicants are exempt from needing to provide new 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. Applicants 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

Learn more:

Step 5: How to determine when collection is impossible or not feasible under section R12.8

Collection is impossible or not feasible

The biometrics collection requirement applies to all persons (unless exempted) applying under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) for

  • a temporary or permanent resident visa or status
  • a work permit
  • a study permit
  • a temporary resident permit
  • refugee protection

Despite this collection requirement, there will be exceptional circumstances when the collection of one or both pieces of biometric information is impossible or not feasible. Section 12.8 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) is available to designated officers to exempt a person who makes a claim, application, or request from the biometric collection requirement if collection of one or both biometric attributes is deemed impossible or not feasible.

Authority to exempt – Designated officers

As per the Instrument of Designation and Delegation (IDD) (also known as the Immigration Legislation [IL] 3), designated officers have the authority to exempt a person who makes a claim, application, or request from the biometric collection requirement for one or both pieces of biometric information if the collection of one or both is deemed impossible or not feasible.

The following designated officers have the power to utilize authorities at section R12.8:

  • Case Management Branch – Assistant Director and Senior Decision Maker
  • International Network – Migration Program Manager and Operations Manager
  • Domestic Network – Unit Manager
  • Centralized Network – Operations Manager
  • Canada Border Services Agency – Superintendent and Inland Enforcement Officer

Designated officers should apply this exemption on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the exceptional circumstances associated with the person’s ability to comply with the biometrics collection requirement.

Exemption scenarios and assessment status

  • Partial exemption: This avoids complete (full) exemption from the biometrics collection requirement. This is used in instances where the collection of 1 of 2 pieces of biometric information is still possible and feasible. A partial enrolment consists of collecting either the applicant’s
    • fingerprints without a photograph
    • photograph without fingerprints
  • Full exemption: Should the collection of neither (0) of the 2 pieces of biometric information be possible or feasible, a full exemption from the biometrics collection requirement may be provided to the applicant. A full exemption consists of not collecting the applicant’s fingerprints or photograph.

Note:

  • If a photograph is captured and the system collects less than 3 fingerprints, it is considered a partial enrolment.
  • If a photograph is captured and the system collects 3 or more fingerprints, it is considered a full enrolment.
  • If a photograph is exempted and the system collects less than 3 fingerprints, it is considered a full exemption.
  • If a photograph is exempted and the system collects 3 or more fingerprints, it is considered a partial exemption.

When processing partial and full exemptions, one of the following drop-down options must be selected under Biometric Assessment:

Note: These values have a “terminal status,” which means a user cannot change the Biometric Assessment value once it has been selected.

Biometric Assessment value Example scenarios

Exempt – Imp./NF Permanent

(Exempt – Impossible or not feasible – Temporary)

Note: Temporary residence applicants will benefit from the 1 in 10 policy when this value is selected if they provided either their photograph or their fingerprints

Impossible:

  • The applicant has a permanent medical condition that prevents the system from capturing a photograph, fingerprints or both.

Exempt – Imp./NF Temporary

(Exempt – Impossible or not feasible – Temporary)

Note: Temporary residence applicants will not benefit from the 1 in 10 policy when this value is selected.

Impossible:

  • The applicant has a temporary medical condition that prevents the system from capturing a photograph, fingerprints or both.

Not feasible:

(Exempt – Impossible or not feasible – Temporary)
  • The case involves undue hardship.

Exempt – System outage

Note: Applicants will not benefit from the 1 in 10 policy when this value is selected.

Impossible:

  • The biometric collection equipment or system functionality required to take the applicant’s photograph, fingerprint or both is not operational
  • See Disruptions in biometric enrolment operations for more examples and detailed instructions on how to address such issues.

Exempt – National interest

Note: As there is no collection, the 1 in 10 policy does not apply.

Pursuant to paragraph R205(a), a work permit may be issued under section 200 to a foreign national who intends to perform work that would create or maintain significant social, cultural or economic benefits or opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Note: This applies to work permits only.

Review Required

If the biometric “Enrolment Class” is equal to “Partial – Fingerprint” or “Partial – Photo” and has a corresponding search result (also known as submission results electronic or SRE) from the RCMP, the assessment will automatically be set to “Review Required”, meaning a designated officer needs to review the biometric activity.

Note: Designated officers are not obligated to manually enter their determination in GCMS. After receiving approval from the designated officer, an officer may apply the determination and enter a note with the name, title and reason of the designated officer who reviewed and approved the exemption in GCMS.

  • Example: Jane Doe, Operations Manager, has approved the full/partial exemption due to (list reasons).

Enrolment Class field

Under the Biometric Assessment field in GCMS, a field labelled “Enrolment Class” will automatically display the type of enrolment that has taken place.

Enrolment Class Description
Full Biometric enrolment contains both a photograph and a sufficient number of captured fingerprints, which have been retained by the RCMP.
Partial – Fingerprint Biometric enrolment contains no photograph but contains a sufficient number of captured fingerprints, which have been retained by the RCMP
Partial – Photo Biometric enrolment contains a photograph, but it does not contain a sufficient number of captured fingerprints or no fingerprints were retained by the RCMP.
Null – No photo or fingerprint Biometric enrolment contains no photograph and no fingerprints.

Note: Once an enrolment is associated with an application, if the Enrolment Class is equal to “Partial – Fingerprint” or “Partial – Photo”, the Biometric Assessment field will automatically be set to “Review Required”. In these cases, after reviewing the application, officers can change the value from “Review Required” to “Exempt – Imp./NF Permanent” or “Exempt – Imp./NF Temporary”.

Partial collection and the 1 in 10 policy in the temporary residence stream

With the implementation of the 1 in 10 policy in the temporary residence stream, biometrics can be reused for subsequent temporary residence applications. All biometrics provided for a temporary residence application are valid for 10 years from the date of biometrics enrolment, regardless of the outcome of the application.

If, at the time of collection, collecting 1 of the 2 pieces of biometric information is impossible or not feasible but the information could be collected at another time (for example, bandaged face or hands), the temporary resident applicant will not benefit from the 10-year validity period (the 1 in 10 policy).

This means the applicant will not benefit from the 1 in 10 policy if both the biometric

  • class is listed as “Partial – Fingerprint”, “Partial – Photo” or “Null – No photo or fingerprint”
  • assessment status is listed as “Exempt – Imp./NF Temporary” or “Exempt – System Outage”

Conversely, in instances where the collection of 1 of 2 pieces of biometric information will never be possible or feasible (for example, amputations or religious objection to a photograph), the applicant will benefit from the 10-year validity period (the 1 in 10 policy).

This means the application will benefit from the 1 in 10 policy if both the biometric

  • class is listed as “Partial – Fingerprint”, “Partial – Photo” or “Null – No photo or fingerprint”
  • assessment status is listed as “Exempt – Impossible / Not Feasible – Permanent

In cases where applicants do not benefit from the 1 in 10 policy, the validity date of their biometrics will be set to final decision date of the application. Furthermore, GCMS will not display—in either the IRCC Secure Account or the online status tool—that the applicant has valid biometrics. Consequently, the applicant will not receive a biometrics validity notification letter.

Applicants who pay the required biometric fee(s) and complete a partial enrolment but do not benefit from the 1 in 10 policy will be fee exempt should they provide a full enrolment (or another partial enrolment) within 10 years of the date of the earliest partial biometric enrolment.

Note: Partial enrolments will auto-associate with applications using the same logic as full enrolments.

Partial biometric instruction letter

After submitting an application by mail or online and paying the associated biometrics fee, the applicant will be sent a standard BIL requesting full biometrics. If the applicant is unable to provide one or both pieces of biometric information, they must contact IRCC (via the Web form) to self-identify as someone who cannot comply with the biometric collection requirement. Once the request is assessed and deemed viable by an IRCC officer, a partial BIL will be issued indicating which of the 2 requirements the applicant is exempt from providing (fingerprints or photograph).

Note: Applicants applying online or by mail must appear at a biometric collection site with a BIL that indicates if they are required to provide

  1. full biometrics (fingerprints and photograph)
  2. partial biometrics—photograph only
  3. partial biometrics—fingerprints only

If the correct BIL is not present at the time of enrolment

  • the Inland Office can review the applicant’s eligibility for partial enrolment and proceed with the enrolment if the designated officer deems it appropriate
  • Service Canada collection will not take place, and the applicant will be advised to contact IRCC (via the Web form) to determine their eligibility for providing partial biometrics
  • visa application centre (VAC) collection will not take place, and the VAC will note the reason on the applicant’s biometric enrolment file. The applicant will wait to hear from a visa office to discuss the reason collection did not take place and proceed with the determination of eligibility for partial enrolment.
  • United States (U.S.) Application Support Centers (ASCs) are not collecting partial biometrics
  • at ports of entry, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) uses Livescan to enrol biometrics, and it is able to collect partial enrolments. CBSA remains responsible for conducting biometrics enrolment for certain visa-exempt applicants for work and study permits who are currently authorized by regulation to apply at a port of entry.

Step 6: 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.

Step 7: 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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