Canada expands its biometrics screening program

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Ottawa: The Government of Canada is committed to the safety and security of all Canadians and to the integrity of our immigration system.

On July 31, all nationals from countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East are required to provide biometrics (fingerprints and a photo) if they are applying for a Canadian visitor visa, a work or study permit, or permanent residence.

Accurately establishing identity is an important part of immigration decisions and helps keep Canadians safe. For more than 20 years, biometrics (fingerprints and a photo) have played a role in supporting immigration screening and decision-making in Canada.

Canada currently collects biometrics from in-Canada refugee claimants and overseas refugee resettlement applicants, individuals ordered removed from Canada and individuals from 30 foreign nationalities applying for a temporary resident visa, work permit, or study permit.

Biometric screening has proven effective in protecting the safety and security of Canadians and the integrity of the immigration system. Systematic fingerprint verification allows border service officers to confirm a traveller’s identity and better manage traffic flow at the border. This will in turn make international travel a convenient, predictable and secure process for travellers with genuine identities.

The Government of Canada has taken several steps to make giving biometrics easier for travellers, including only requiring that temporary residents provide their biometrics once every 10 years (those applying for a visa, or a study or work permit). Canada is also increasing its Visa Application Centre (VAC) presence in the next 2 years. Canada has one of the largest VAC networks in comparison with other countries; more than 97% of applicants can access a VAC in their country of residence. By November 2019, Canada will have a network of at least 157 VACs in 105 countries. In addition, applicants living in the U.S. can use the extensive network of 135 U.S. Application Support Centers for biometrics collection.

In advance of additional VACs opening this summer and fall, some Canadian embassies in Europe will offer interim biometrics collection service points for applicants who have applied online or by mail and have received a Biometrics Instruction Letter. Please see: To support biometrics expansion, Canada is opening new Visa Application Centres and offering interim services at some missions.

More than 70 countries are using biometrics in immigration and border management. Canada’s Migration 5 partners – the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, and New Zealand – have implemented biometric programs; so have the 26 Schengen states in Europe, and other countries around the world like Japan, South Africa and India.

“Each year, Canada welcomes millions of visitors and accepts hundreds of thousands of students, workers and permanent residents. Canadians understand the importance of immigration and travel to our country’s economic and social well-being. By expanding our biometrics program, we facilitate entry into Canada and protect the integrity of our immigration system by quickly and accurately establishing a traveller’s identity. A key feature of biometrics expansion is that temporary residents will only have to provide their biometrics once every 10 years said, Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.”

Quick facts:

  • Biometrics:
  • are the measurement of unique physical characteristics
  • for Canadian immigration programs, biometrics include fingerprints and a photograph of the face
  • have been collected from asylum claimants since 1993; visa-required temporary residents from 30 nationalities since December 2013; and overseas refugee resettlement claimants since November 2014.
  • The scope of the expansion project includes 3 broad components:
  • Collection of biometric information from all foreign nationals (excluding U.S. nationals) applying for a temporary resident visa, work permit, study permit, or temporary resident permit; and all permanent residence applicants.
  • Verification: Systematic fingerprint verification at major airports, and expanded fingerprint verification at additional ports of entry (airports and land borders), for travellers who have provided their biometrics.
  • Information-sharing: Increased biometric-based information-sharing between Canada and the U.S. and automated biometric-based information-sharing with the other Migration 5 partners: Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
  • Exemptions to biometrics expansion include:
  • Canadian citizens, citizenship applicants (including passport applicants), or existing permanent residents
  • visa-exempt nationals coming to Canada as tourists who hold a valid electronic travel authorization (eTA)
  • children under the age of 14
  • applicants over the age of 79 (there is no upper age exemption for asylum claimants)
  • heads of state and heads of government
  • cabinet ministers and accredited diplomats of other countries and the United Nations, coming to Canada on official business
  • S. visa holders transiting through Canada
  • refugee claimants or protected persons who have already provided biometrics and are applying for a study or work permit
  • temporary resident applicants who have already provided biometrics in support of a permanent resident application that is still in progress