Canada expands photo and fingerprint requirements for some travelers

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Who needs to give biometrics?

As of July 31st, 2018, travellers from Europe, Middle East and Asia who are applying for a visitor visa, work or study permit, permanent residence, or refugee or asylum status must submit biometric information (photograph and fingerprints) to the Canadian government as part of their application.

On December 31st, 2018 applicants from Asia, Asia Pacific, and the Americas (excluding US citizens who are applying for a work or study visa) will be required to do the same.

So far, more than 70 countries use biometrics as part of their Canadian immigration process. According to the Canadian government, the process of examining fingerprint and face-recognition software helps to guard against identity theft, while simplifying the application process for those who use a legitimate identity when travelling. The government has also noted that the collection of biometric data helps to prevent the entry of people who may pose a health or security risk to Canadian citizens.

Once collected, the data will be used by immigration officials to confirm whether the applicant has a criminal record, has previously been removed from Canada, or has used a different identity to enter the country.

The process will require applicants who are outside the country to find the nearest official biometrics collection service location before arriving. In the United States, applicants would visit an Application Support Center to have their data collected, whereas those outside of the United States would need to schedule an appointment with a Visa Application Center (VAC).

Only those who are asylum claimants or are work or study permit applicants who are eligible to apply at the port of entry may do so.

Under the new program, visitor visa, study, and work permit applicants will only be required to submit biometric information once every ten years, but permanent resident applicants must give biometrics and pay a fee regardless of whether they have submitted the data in the past. Additionally, those who hold a valid visitor visa, study, or work permit and have already submitted their biometrics do not need to give new biometric information until ten years have passed from the date when they made the submission.

While the new requirements will have a significant impact on many people who visit or move to Canada, there are some who are considered exempt from the process. This includes Canadian citizens, citizenship applicants, or existing permanent residents, as well as visa-exempt nationals coming to Canada as tourist who hold a valid Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). The process does not apply to those under 14 or 80 years old and over.

Those applying for a visa, study, work permit, or permanent residence in Canada are also exempt.

Currently, the fee for individual applicants is set at $85 CAD for individuals, $170 for families applying at the same time, and $255 for groups of 3 or more performing artists and staff who apply for the work permits at the same time.