Email/letter sent to clients to inform of retention of biometric information

Ottawa, Friday, March 19, 2021—Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is sending emails/letters to some clients to inform them that, due to a system issue, the Government of Canada has retained their biometric information beyond the retention period for that information.

To protect the integrity of our immigration system, IRCC collects personal information from clients, including fingerprints and photographs, in support of their immigration application or refugee claim. Once a person becomes a Canadian citizen, fingerprints collected are deleted from immigration holdings by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on IRCC’s behalf.

Due to a system issue, the fingerprints of some clients were not deleted. IRCC notified affected clients beginning March 19, 2021, that their fingerprints were retained beyond the normal retention period. These fingerprints have now been deleted.

IRCC also collects biometric photographs from clients in support of their immigration application or refugee claim. These photographs may be stored in the immigration holdings at IRCC, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the RCMP. These photographs should have been deleted once clients became Canadian citizens.

Note that if a client’s biometric photograph was stored in the immigration holdings at the RCMP, it has already been deleted along with their fingerprints. Also note that biometric photographs are not shared by the RCMP with any other police service. We are working diligently to delete the biometric photographs of those who have become citizens from IRCC’s and CBSA’s holdings.

IRCC is taking this situation very seriously and is contacting affected individuals to advise them of the issue. We’re also strengthening verification and control measures and have engaged and will continue to consult with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

IRCC is committed to safeguarding clients’ personal information and ensuring that this information is properly managed and protected.

Notices to clients are being sent via email or Canada Post registered mail.

In the letter, clients have been provided with an email address to write to for more information or questions.

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