For the past few years, nationals of 30 countries applying to come to Canada on a temporary basis (as visitors, students and workers), including Iran, have had to provide biometric information as part of their visa application. Providing biometrics requires an applicant to appear in person at a Visa Application Centre (VAC office) and provide fingerprints and have their photo taken. This information is used to verify identity of entrants to Canada.
Starting July 31, 2018, Canada will be expanding its biometric collection system. In addition to the existing 30 countries, applicants from countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa will need to provide biometrics. And applicants in Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas will need to provide biometrics starting December 31, 2018. This will include applicants coming from countries that are visa-exempt.
So who needs to provide biometrics? All foreign nationals who are:
- applying for a visitor visa
- applying for a work permit or a study permit, (excluding U.S. nationals)
- applying for permanent residence
- claiming refugee or asylum status
Some people are exempt from giving biometrics, such as:
- Canadian citizens, citizenship applicants (including passport applicants), or existing permanent residents
- persons under 14 years old and over 79 years of age
- visa-exempt nationals coming to Canada as tourists who hold a valid electronic travel authorization (eTA)
- temporary resident applicants who have already provided biometrics in support of a permanent resident application that is still in progress
The biometric expansion will also have some good news for everyone:
- The validity of temporary resident biometrics will now be 10 years so if you have provided biometrics in the past 10 years you will not be required to repeatedly provide biometrics until the 10 year validity period expires.
- Beginning in 2019 there will be an opportunity to provide biometric data in-Canada and applicants will not have to travel outside of Canada to provide biometrics. Until the facilities are set up in Canada those applying in Canada will be exempt from providing biometrics.
- New VAC offices will be opened in more cities around the world to facilitate the expansion of biometric collection by Canada.
Canada has identified collecting biometrics as an effective way to manage identity of applicants and facilitate application processing for legitimate travellers. The expanded collection of biometrics is intended to deter and stop the entry of those who pose a risk to the health, safety and security of Canadians.
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Zeynab Ziaie is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario and New York. Her legal practice focuses on immigration and business law. She often works with clients to find suitable solutions in complex immigration and citizenship cases and represents clients at all levels of court.