Canada’s biometric rule extending to Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas

Eman Katem
Published: December 21, 2018

On December 31, Canada’s mandatory fingerprints and photo requirement, known as biometrics, will apply to people from Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas.

This is the second phase of Canada's biometrics expansion, which started late July, when the requirement was implemented for applicants from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The submission of fingerprints and photo is used by the Government of Canada for identification purposes of anyone applying for a Canadian visitor visa, work or study permit, permanent residence, including Express Entry candidates, or asylum in Canada.

This means anyone between the ages of 14 and 79 must provide biometric information, except in asylum cases, for which there is no upper age limit.

Travellers from visa-exempt countries, who are visiting Canada as tourists with a valid Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), will not be required to provide biometrics.

For a full list of exemptions, please visit this page.

Why do applicants need to give their biometrics?

Biometrics data collection enables the Government of Canada to facilitate application processing and simplify entry into Canada for low-risk travellers.

Visa officers can use biometrics data to confirm travellers' identity.

Biometric verification also helps to

  • make it more difficult for someone to forge, steal or use another person's identity,
  • resolve problems or errors that may happen if a person's name, date of birth and/or place of birth are similar to those of someone else, and
  • confirm a person's identity the next time they apply, so it is easier to re-enter Canada.

Where can applicants provide their biometrics?

Biometrics data can be processed at any Government of Canada-authorized Visa Application Centre (VAC) and only takes a few minutes to process. It costs first-time applicants CAD $85 or CAD $170 for those applying for a family.

Biometrics processing can only be done if an application is submitted at a VAC and the biometrics payment has been made or if an applicant received a Biometrics Instruction Letter from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) after applying online or by mail.

In an effort to facilitate the biometrics program, the Government of Canada established new VACs in various regions and set up transitional biometrics collection service points in Europe.

Canada plans to have at least 149 VAC locations in 99 countries by November 2019.

Individuals residing in the United States with legal status can submit their biometrics at any authorized Application Support Center.

If applying in person in Canada, applicants will be able to give their biometric information at select Service Canada locations in 2019. Until then, IRCC exempts anyone applying for a visa, study or work permit or permanent residence in Canada from the biometrics requirement.

However, some international students or temporary workers may be eligible to apply and provide their biometrics at specific Canadian ports of entry.

Applicants for a visitor visa, study or work permit will only be required to submit their biometrics once every 10 years.

Privacy Concerns

Biometric identification helps the Government of Canada prevent:

  • identity fraud and theft;
  • known criminals from entering Canada;
  • deportees from re-entering Canada without permission; and
  • failed refugee claimants from re-entering Canada using false identity documents.

Fingerprints are kept on record for 15 years from the time applicants provide them, after which they are deleted.

The Canadian government states that biometrics information is handled with the highest level of security and privacy using encryption.

IRCC may disclose biometric information to the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. This is done in accordance with Canada’s privacy laws and civil liberties and human rights commitments, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For more information on Canada’s biometrics program, visit our dedicated Canada Biometrics Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Find out if you are eligible for Canadian immigration by completing our online assessment now.

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