New Canadian Biometric Requirements in Place for International Students and Other Visa Holders

As of July 31, 2018, international students applying for Canadian student visas from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa are required to provide biometric facial photos and fingerprint data to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officers when entering the country. The requirements will also apply to applicants for visitor, work, permanent residency, or refugee asylum visas.

Applicants already in Canada are temporarily exempt from the requirements pending the establishment of biometric application processing centres in Canada starting in 2019.

Canada’s Biometric Initiative program, which is designed to ease legitimate travel to Canada while protecting national security and preventing identify fraud, will be extended to applicants from Asia, Asia- Pacific, and the Americas starting December 31, 2018. Canada already collects biometric data from refugee applicants from 30 countries.

Tourists from visa-exempt countries with valid Electronic Travel Authorizations (eTA) are exempt from the requirement, as are:

  • Canadian citizens
  • US nationals
  • Citizenship applicants (including passport applicants) or existing permanent residents
  • Children under 14
  • Applicants older than 79
  • US visa holders transiting through Canada
  • Foreign senior government officials
  • Refugee claimants who have already provided biometrics and are applying for study or work permits
  • Temporary resident applicants who have already provided biometrics in support of a permanent residency application that is still in progress

Canada’s immigration minister Ahmed Hussen has stated that expanding the IRCC’s biometric program from the 30 countries now subject to the requirements to a planned 150 will allow border and immigration agents to establish travellers’ identities quickly and accurately. The full program is being rolled out to all ports of entry during 2018 and 2019.

Where will this take place?

Visa applicants outside of Canada can provide their biometrics to any one of 137 government-approved Visa Application Centres (VACs) in 95 countries, in addition to 135 Application Support Centers in the US. They can apply in person, online, or by mail. The biometric data will be valid for 10 years before it needs to be renewed. Those who have already provided biometrics prior to July 31, 2018, must provide them again.

More precise information on how and where to apply is available at the Canadian government’s website.

What about costs?

In addition to the regular visa application fee, a biometric fee of $85 CAD per person will apply. However, families applying together for a visitor visa will only pay a maximum biometric fee of up to $170 CAD.

Whether applications are made online or in person, VAC staff will ask to see proof that the biometric fees have been paid before taking fingerprints and photographs.

Biometric fees will also cover the cost of application handling at a VAC. The VAC will make sure applications are complete, then send them on to the appropriate visa office.

How will it work?

When entering or re-entering Canada, an IRCC officer will compare the photograph in the traveller’s passport or travel document to the photograph taken at the VAC. The officer may also ask for fingerprints.

At airports and land points of entry, discretionary fingerprint verification may be conducted by border officers to verify that the person entering Canada is the same person who was previously approved abroad.

As the biometrics program evolves, we will bring you updates. Stay tuned.

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