Starting today, Canada immigration officials will require travellers from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa to provide fingerprints and photos, regardless of whether they’re just visiting, or planning to study or work in the country.
A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) told Daily Hive that “new regulations will support the expansion of biometric collection to all applicants from Europe, the Middle East and Africa who are applying abroad for a temporary resident visa, work permit, study permit, or permanent residence.”
The spokesperson noted that IRCC currently collects biometrics from “in-Canada refugee claimants, 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.”
But starting today, this program will be expanded to include three new, “broad” components:
- Collection: Expanding biometric collection to all foreign nationals (excluding US nationals) applying for a temporary resident visa, work permit, study permit, and all permanent residence applicants.
- Verification: Introduce systematic fingerprint verification, for all travellers who have provided their biometrics at major airports, and expand fingerprint verification at additional ports of entry – like airports and land borders.
- Information sharing: Increase biometric information sharing between Canada and the US and introduce biometric information sharing with the other Migration 5 (formerly known as FCC – Five Country Conference) partners: Australia, United Kingdom and New Zealand. Biometric information will be shared in a manner that is consistent with Canada’s privacy laws, civil liberties and human rights obligations/commitments, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Biometric screening has proven effective in protecting the safety and security of Canadians and the integrity of the immigration system,” the IRCC spokesperson said. “Systematic fingerprint verification allows border service officers to confirm a traveller’s identity and better manage traffic flow at the border.”
This in turn, they added, “will improve the efficiency of subsequent interactions with that individual.”
The IRCC said Biometric screening has also made it easier “to identify known criminals at the earliest opportunity in order to prevent them from coming to Canada. It has also made it more difficult for others to forge, steal or use another person’s identity to gain access to Canada.”
Applicants will have to appear in person at a biometrics collection service location to provide their fingerprints and to have a digital photograph taken:
- At the port of entry: Asylum claimants, and applicants for work and study permits who are eligible to apply at the port of entry
- In Canada: When the in-Canada service is set up in 2019
- In the United States: At one of many Application Support Centers across the US
- Outside Canada and the US: At one of Canada’s Visa Application Centre (VAC) locations around the world.
“To facilitate repeat travel to Canada, temporary residence applicants will only be required to provide their biometrics and pay the corresponding fee once every 10 years,” said the IRCC. “Biometrics will be kept on file for screening of subsequent applications within the 10-year period.”
The IRCC said biometric screening will help facilitate the visa or permit application process as a visa officer can quickly and accurately establish an applicant’s identity, as well as help facilitate the entry of travellers with legitimate identities by providing a reliable tool for identity management.
At ports of entry, Canada Border Services Agency officers will verify the fingerprints and photos of individuals who have previously provided their biometrics. Biometric-based information will also be checked against the immigration records of Migration 5 partners, which in some cases will provide decision-makers with additional, valuable information when making admissibility decisions.
“This will help strengthen identity management and bolster the integrity of our immigration system and the border,” the IRCC said.
Expansion will apply to all foreign nationals
Responding to the question of whether particular regions of the world were being singled out in this process, the IRCC said the biometrics expansion applies to to all foreign nationals is scheduled to be implemented over two years (2018-2019).
As of December 31, 2018, regulations will be in place to support the collection of biometrics from the remaining countries – those from Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas – who are applying for a temporary resident visa, work permit, study permit, or permanent residence.