Expansion of Canada's Biometrics Program

Published on: Jul 31, 2018 | Tags: Biometric Security, Canada eTA Application Form


Canada will extend and enhance its biometrics verification program from the end of July 2018. The program is currently in use to verify the identity of people entering the country. As part of a drive to improve efficiency and reinforce the country's immigration programs, the expanding biometrics program will provide an efficient and effective screening process. It will also generally facilitate travel to Canada, helping those who apply for a Canada visa or work permit to transfer swiftly and smoothly into the country when arriving at the border. Finally, biometrics will also boost the public's trust and confidence in the Canada immigration system as a whole.

How the biometrics program is changing

At present, Canada gathers biometric data from refugees in the country and those applying from overseas to resettle in the country. In addition, data is collected for anyone who has been ordered to leave the country. One of the most common uses of biometric data is for individuals from 30 foreign countries who are applying for a temporary Canada visa, work permit or study permit. The main change is as follows: As of 31 July 2018, Canada will also require Europeans, Africans and people from the Middle East to supply biometrics data when requesting a work or study permit, visa or asking to become a permanent resident of Canada.

Canada visas are in high demand

It is expected that there will be a high demand for Canada visas this summer and, to respond to this, the Canadian government is opening Visa Application Centers (VACs) in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. There will be centers in places like Israel, Sweden, Berlin, Lyon and Cape Town, to name but a few. By the end of 2019, more VACs are set to open and it is expected that by November 2019, around 157 VACs will operate in 105 countries to assist with the various aspects of Canada immigration and travel.

These centers are owned privately by third parties and will provide an official service and administrative support to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). They will support applicants during the stages of various procedures, with applications being assessed by IRCC officials. Individuals will find it easy to contact the service by phone, email and in person and local languages will be spoken. Most importantly, VACs can also gather biometric data from applicants. The centers should make it easier for applicants to get their visa or permit and are the most efficient sustainable method for the Canadian government to offer its service to international applicants.

Canadian embassies are assisting

Before the VACs actually open their doors, a few Canadian embassies in Europe are providing biometrics collection points. Anyone who has applied online or by post to enter Canada and has received a Biometrics Instruction Letter will be able to visit one of these embassies to supply their data.

The embassies offering this service include locations like Sweden, Athens, Berlin, Vienna and Lyon. However, the Canadian government emphasizes that these locations are only collecting biometric data and are not actually processing applications. Applications for visas etc. must proceed in the usual manner and applicants can use the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada website or the postal service. They must have a Biometrics Instruction Letter in order to offer their biometric data to accompany their application.

Biometrics - heling with the millions of annual visitors to Canada

The expanding biometrics program is important because, every year, millions of visitors come to Canada using a number of entry methods, including a Canada ETA. Biometrics isn't part of the ETA process per se, but if additional time or information is needed to make an ETA decision, individuals will be notified of the delay within 3 days. Canada ETA is required for foreign nationals who are exempt from getting a visa when travelling to Canada by air. An ETA allows a foreign national to enter and re-enter the country but cannot be used in place of a work or study permit. Individuals can apply for an ETA online and a decision is usually received very quickly. An ETA remains in force for 5 years, or as long as the individual's passport is valid.

More about biometrics, including exemptions

Biometrics measure the unique physical characteristics of individuals such as fingerprints and includes a face photograph. The program does include exemptions. For example, Canadian citizens, those applying for citizenship and Canadian passports and existing permanent residents are not subject to the process. Also, children under 14 and adults over 79 need are exempt. However, for asylum seekers, there is no upper age limit. Certain officials are exempt from the biometrics program, including heads of state and government, cabinet ministers official foreign diplomats coming to the country on political or diplomatic business. Individuals who hold a U.S. visa and are transitioning through Canada are also exempt.


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