Canada: Expanded Biometrics Collection Regulations Proposed

The Canadian government has proposed regulations which would: • Expand the collection of biometrics for foreign nationals applying for most permits and visas; • Introduce a biometric verification system at Canadian borders; and • Increase information sharing with key partner countries' governments.

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Apr 11, 2018
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The situation
The government of Canada has proposed amendments which would expand the collection and verification of biometrics for foreign nationals entering Canada. If approved, the proposed amendments are expected to go into effect in two phases based on global region – for all applicants from Europe, the Middle East and Africa by July 31, 2018, and for all applicants from Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas by December 31, 2018.

A closer look

  • Biometrics requirement. If passed, the new regulations would require foreign nationals applying for the following immigration statuses for Canada to submit biometrics as part of their permit application process:
    • Temporary resident visa;
    • Work permit or study permit (excluding U.S. citizens, as discussed below);
    • Permanent resident status; and
    • Refugees.  
  • Exemptions. The following foreign nationals, among others, would be exempt from the biometric collection requirement:
    • U.S. citizens applying for a work or study permit or requesting a Temporary Residence Permit (TRP);
    • U.S. visa holders transiting through Canada;
    • Canadian citizens, Canadian citizenship applicants, Canadian permanent residents;
    • Those eligible to apply for an electronic travel authorization (eTA) and who are traveling to Canada as a tourist;
    • Those under the age of 14 and above the age of 79 (however, there is no upper age cutoff for those making a refugee claim); or
    • Those seeking to enter Canada in the course of official duties as a diplomat, consular officer, representative or official of a country or the United Nations.  

          Currently, the requirement to provide biometrics is based on nationality.

  • Expanded facilities for biometric collection. While currently foreign nationals can only submit their biometrics abroad, under the proposed regulations, they would also submit their biometrics both in Canada and at certain port of entry facilities. Implementing details are expected to be released in further legislative steps.
  • Temporary exemption. Foreign nationals applying for a visa, study or work permit, or permanent residence in Canada are temporarily exempt from the biometrics requirement until biometric collection service centers are established in Canada.
  • Fees. Applicants would be subject to a nonrefundable fee of CAD 85. A maximum fee of CAD 170 would apply if an applicant and his or her family members were submitting their applications simultaneously. There are also proposed fee exemptions.
  • Validity. Biometrics would be valid for ten years. A foreign national’s immigration status would not be granted beyond the validity of their biometrics.
    • If a foreign national has a valid visitor visa, study or work permit and submitted their biometrics in the past, their biometrics are valid from the date they submitted their biometrics for a period of ten years.
    • However, foreign nationals applying for permanent residence will need to submit their biometrics and pay the fee, regardless of whether they submitted their biometrics in the past to support a visitor visa study or work permit application, or a different permanent resident application.

Verification system The proposed regulations would also introduce a systematic fingerprint verification system that would be used for all biometrically-enrolled travelers at Canada’s major airports and would add fingerprint verification capacity at additional ports of entry. Impact This is a very broad-based change affecting visa and visa-exempt nationals’ entry to Canada.

  • Impact for visa-exempt nationals
    • Foreign nationals seeking entry to Canada will be subject to an extra application step, which may complicate the entry process.
    • U.S. citizens’ entry to Canada would not be impacted by the biometrics collection requirement in most instances.
  • Impact for visa nationals
    • All foreign nationals requiring visas and seeking entry to Canada will be subject to an extra application step, which may complicate the application process.
    • Third-party visa nationals in the United States who wish to travel to Canada after the regulations are implemented may experience significant delays due to the limited number of service centers in the United States.
  • General impact
    • The collection of biometrics would allow for increased information-sharing between the governments of Canada and the United States and would introduce information sharing with the governments of Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
    • The Canadian government expects that the need for in-depth questioning at the application and arrival stages will be significantly reduced due to the enhanced identity confirmation methods.

Looking ahead Once the proposed regulations become law, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will continue to work with the Canada Border Services Agency, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Shared Services Canada to implement the expanded biometrics program. The biometric collection service network and automated fingerprint verification system is expected to be rolled out at ports of entry through 2019.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to canada@fragomen.com.

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