What are biometrics?

Biometrics are the measurement of unique physical characteristics.

For Canadian immigration, biometrics include fingerprints and a photograph of the face.

Biometrics significantly reduce the chance that one individual could pose as or be mistaken for another.

Biometrics are internationally recognized as one of the most reliable ways to identify people, and they are used worldwide.

Canada has long had one of the highest per capita rates of immigration in the world and is an attractive destination for immigrants and visitors.

Accurately establishing identity is an important part of immigration decisions and helps keep Canadians safe.

For over 20 years, biometrics have played a role in supporting immigration screening and decision-making in Canada.

Expanding the biometrics collection requirement to more temporary and permanent resident applicants strengthens immigration programs through effective screening (biometric collection, verification and information sharing) and enables Canada to uphold its humanitarian tradition, attract talent, and facilitate application processing and travel – while maintaining public confidence in our immigration system.

What is biometrics expansion?

Biometrics expansion will:

  • Expand the current biometric screening program to all temporary resident visa, study and work permit applicants (excluding U.S. nationals), as well as to all permanent residence applicants.
  • Verify the biometrics of these travellers upon their arrival at major Canadian airports and expand the capacity to collect biometrics and conduct fingerprint verification (i.e., in the secondary services and inspections area) at additional Canadian ports of entry.
  • Implement biometric-based information sharing arrangements with our Migration 5 partners (United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia), in a manner that respects Canada’s privacy laws, civil liberties and human rights commitments, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 How and when is biometrics being expanded?

Biometrics expansion is being rolled out over 2 years (2018–2019):

  • Since July 31, 2018, nationals from countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East are required to give their biometrics (fingerprints and a photo) when applying for a Canadian visitor visa, a work or study permit, or for permanent residence.
  • Starting December 31, 2018, nationals of countries in Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas will need to give their biometrics when applying for a Canadian visitor visa, a work or study permit, or for permanent residence.
  • In 2019, foreign nationals who are eligible to make an in-Canada application, such as an extension to their visitor status, a work permit or study permit renewal, a temporary resident permit renewal, or for permanent resident status, will have to give their biometrics when the Service Canada locations open across Canada. Until then, these applicants are exempt from the biometrics requirement.

Where can applicants give their biometrics?

Official biometrics collection service points include:

  • Visa Application Centres (VACs)– a global network of third-party service providers authorized by the Government of Canada to collect applicants’ biometrics; or
  • U.S. Application Support Centers (ASCs): if applicants are already legally in the U.S., or a U.S. territory that has an ASC.

When should applicants pay the biometrics fee?

Applicants must pay the biometrics collection fee when they submit their application. Once they do this, they will receive their Biometrics Instruction Letter, which will direct them to a list of biometrics collection service locations. The time it takes to receive the letter will vary, depending on the type of application submitted. Applicants must provide their biometrics within 30 days from the date the instruction letter is issued.

Applicants who apply in person at a VAC for a visitor visa or work/study permit do not need to wait to receive the Biometrics Instruction Letter. They can submit their application, pay the biometric collection fee, based on the payment method available at the VAC, and give their biometrics at the same time.

Are there any exemptions from the biometrics collection requirement?

Yes, exemptions include:

  • Canadian citizens, citizenship applicants (including passport applicants), or existing permanent residents;
  • visa-exempt nationals coming to Canada as tourists
  • foreign nationals under the age of 14, or over the age of 79 (no upper age limit  for asylum claimants);
  • Heads of State and Heads of Government, regardless of purpose of travel;
  • Accredited diplomats or officials of foreign countries coming to Canada in the course of  official duties;
  • U.S. nationals making an application for a work, study or temporary resident permit
  • U.S. visa holders transiting through Canada;

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