Biometrics for immigration to Canada

Planning a trip to Canada mostly comes with some series of formalities you’ve to go through, but some formalities are unnecessary, depending on your nationality.

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Such is the biometric requirement for immigrating to Canada.

Although you might have heard or read somewhere that biometrics is necessary. We feel the need to inform you right from the start of this article that you may not be asked to provide your biometrics when you go through the application process.

In 2018, Canada made significant changes to the biometrics requirements. And those changes affect only particular categories of travellers.

For example, if you come from a visa-exempt country, you don’t need to provide fingerprints or a photo as a component of the biometrics collection program. 

However, the rule applies to those who apply for a student visa, work visa, or visitor visa. As aforementioned, it’s dependent on the applicant’s nationality.

How Canada Immigration biometric works

Biometrics are done at the application stage, and also at the point of entry into Canada.

What goes on is that a visa officer is permitted to screen applicants so that they can extract any criminal convictions prior to their arrival in Canada.

The screening also reveals any Canadian immigration infractions, if applicable. If you have given your biometrics already, then the visa officers would use the screening process to confirm your identity.

Where can you provide biometrics?

While there are about 8 prime airports in Canada that have self-serving Primary Inspection Kiosks where biometrics is confirmed, you could also have your fingerprints and photos taken outside of Canada, in your country of residence.

If you’re outside of Canada, you’d be required to pay a visit to a VAC, which is a Canada-authorized Visa Application Centre. 

As of July 2021, Canada has 413 VACs worldwide. The process of opening more VACs is still in progress so that travellers do not have to go out of their way to provide biometrics.

The biometrics provided for the first time is valid for 10 years. So, if you already gave your fingerprints and photo, you do not have to undergo the same process for another decade.

But, there is an exception to that rule. If you apply for Canadian permanent residence, you’d be required to give your biometrics and pay the fee notwithstanding if you have already done it in the last 10 years.

COVID-19 biometrics updates

Service Canada re-opened biometrics appointment scheduling for in-Canada immigration applicants in November 2020.

Immigration applicants who live inside Canada began to book their own biometrics appointments online at the aforementioned date (Source: IRCC).

Applicants have been duly informed to use the closest biometrics office to them for their appointment. 

Note: The IRCC’s temporary special measures absolving specific applicants from needing biometrics during the pandemic have since remained in place.

Changes to biometrics policies during COVID-19

Immigration applicants struggled greatly as regards completing the biometrics component of their applications during COVID-19.

Applicants outside Canada were at the mercy of their regional Visa Application Centre (VAC) some of which remained closed.

Meanwhile, applicants inside Canada could not book in-person biometrics appointments for the major parts of 2020 until Service Canada re-opened to biometrics bookings in late November.

Additionally, there are two special measures in place in response to COVID-19 which directly impacted the biometrics policies:

Biometrics for Canada visa – exemptions

To make things simpler to comprehend, we would just list the instances for which you are not required to provide biometrics when you apply for a Canada visa. The people who must not have their biometrics collected are as follows:

  • Canadian citizens.
  • Current permanent residents.
  • Citizenship applicants (passport applicants).
  • Visa-exempt nationalities who applied for an Electronic Travel Authorization.
  • Children below the age of 14 and elderly people above the age of 79.
  • Heads of state and heads of government.
  • Ministers and diplomats who is traveling to Canada on official business.
  • US visa holders who is transiting through Canada.
  • Protected persons or refugee claimants who have provided their biometrics in the past and has now applied for a work or study permit.
  • Temporary resident applicants who have given their fingerprints and photo already in support of a permanent resident application still in progress.

The key point is that as long as you fall under one of the above-listed categories, you don’t need to provide biometrics for a Canadian visa.

In every other circumstance, you’d need to visit the closest VAC to you and get the process started.

Also, you could just fulfill the formalities at one of the Canadian airports that offer this kind of service.

Biometrics for IEC

The enlargement of the requirement to submit biometrics as a component of the Canadian immigration process has caused some sort of confusion and disruption, specifically among applicants for a Canadian work permit under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program.

To get information about biometrics for IEC in particular, please visit the official website.

Applicants ought to first apply to come to Canada through the appropriate channels on Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada’s website or by mail and must’ve received the Biometrics Instruction Letter before being given their biometrics in support of an application.

If you have supplied your biometrics in Canada recently, your biometric data will be valid for a span of ten (10) years as earlier mentioned, so it would take a while before you would need to repeat the process.

Just like everyone else repeats travellers to Canada are only required to give their biometrics once every 10 years.

IRCC would determine if an applicant has valid biometrics on file and will keep track of the biometric validity period.  

These are the exemptions to the process:

  • Canadian citizens, citizenship applicants (including passport applicants), or existing permanent residents;
  • children under the age of 14;
  • applicants over the age of 79 (there is no upper age exemption for asylum claimants);
  • visa-exempt nationals coming to Canada as tourists who hold a valid Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA);
  • 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;
  • US visa holders transiting through Canada;
  • refugee claimants or protected persons who have provided biometrics already and are applying for a study or work permit; and
  • temporary resident applicants who have provided biometrics already in support of a permanent resident application that is still in progress.

Canada isn’t the only country to have put up measures requiring specific foreign nationals to provide biometric data before gaining entrance.

Over 70 countries globally use biometrics in their immigration processes. Governments, including the government of Canada, typically justify such measures as a way to keep control of potential health and security risks and to facilitate identification procedures.

Cost of Canada Immigration Biometrics?

There is a fee of $85 CAD for individual applicants, with families applying at the same time paying a maximum fee of $170 CAD.

Additionally, groups of three or more performing artists and their staff who apply for work permits are subject to a maximum total fee of $255 CAD.

Where will this process be carried out?

There are lots of VACs set up around the world, as well as Application Support Centers in the US and, as of July 7, 2021, designated Service Canada Centres within Canada.

Primary inspection kiosks have already been, or will be, put up in key Canadian airports.

These kiosks automatically scan your fingerprints and take your photo, running a background screening against the information you provided to make sure you are who you say you are.

There you’ve it, everything you need to know about biometrics for immigration to Canada.

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