Certain people going to Canada from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa will have to provide fingerprints and a photograph from July 31. Currently, biometric data is only collected from refugees, asylum claimants, visa applicants, and 30 'high risk' countries.
The government announced that anyone applying for a temporary resident visa, work permit, or study permit will have to provide the biometric data. From December 31, the same groups of people coming from Asia, the Asia Pacific region, and the Americas will also be required to provide the data.
The government said the aim of the expansion is to make legitimate travel to Canada easier, to protect national security, and to prevent identity fraud.
Ahmad Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, said: “By expanding our biometrics programme, we facilitate entry into Canada and protect the integrity of our immigration system, by quickly and accurately establishing a traveler’s identity. A key feature of biometrics expansion is that temporary residents will only have to provide their biometrics once every 10 years.”
He said each year Canada welcomed millions of visitors and accepted hundreds of thousands of students, workers, and permanent residents. He said Canadians understood the importance of immigration to their country's economic and social well-being.
Canada has used biometrics for over 20 years to support immigration screening. Many other countries collect biometric data including the United States and all EU countries. The countries share the information in order to mutually improve border control.
Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, said: “Biometrics screening helps keep Canadians safe. The collection and verification of biometrics, along with criminal and immigration screening and biometric-based information-sharing, will help prevent identity fraud, identify those who pose a security risk and stop known criminals from entering Canada.
Are there any exceptions who do not need to provide biometric data?
There are a number of specific groups who will be exempt from providing their biometric data:
- Canadian citizens and residents
- Canadian citizenship and passport applicants
- Tourists entering with an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA)
- Children under 14 years old
- Applicants over 79 years old (excluding asylum claimants)
- Heads of states, cabinet members, diplomats, and UN officials
- US visa holders transiting through Canada
- Refugee claimants or protected individuals applying for a study permit or work permit (who have already provided biometric data)
How will the new system work?
To help implement the system, Canada will expand the number of Visa Application Centers (VACs) it operates around the world from 137 in 95 countries to 157 in 105 countries. These centers will collect a large proportion of the biometric data.
New centers are expected to open by the end of 2018 in Athens (Greece), Berlin (Germany), Lyon (France), Vienna (Austria), Antananarivo (Madagascar), Cape Town (South Africa), Kigali (Rwanda), Stockholm (Sweden), and Tel Aviv (Israel).
On arrival in Canada, visitors' fingerprints will provide at a primary inspection kiosk. The system will then check the visitor's identity against the information collected when the original application was submitted.
The exact process will differ between the various ports of entry. At smaller airports, there may be a secondary inspection, where a fingerprint verification device will be used.