Backgrounder — Biometrics in Canada’s Temporary Resident Program

The Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act would allow the Government to collect biometric information from certain applicants as part of the visa, study, and work permit application process. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), in partnership with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), is leading the effort to introduce biometrics into Canada’s temporary resident program.

Biometrics are an effective tool that significantly reduce the chance that one individual could pose as or be mistaken for another individual. Using biometrics would strengthen the integrity of Canada’s immigration program by helping prevent known criminals, failed refugee claimants, and those previously deported from using a different identity to obtain a visa.

Collecting biometric data is a highly reliable way to reduce identity fraud while facilitating legitimate travel. As a result, biometrics will strengthen and modernize Canada’s immigration processes.

The use of biometrics will put Canada in line with most other Western countries which are now using, or preparing to use, biometrics in immigration matters. These include the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, New Zealand, and countries in the European Union. Others, such as Japan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, and Malaysia, are also using biometrics.  

Starting in 2013, travellers, students and workers from certain visa-required countries and territories will be required to provide their fingerprints and have their photo taken before they arrive in Canada. When a visa holder arrives at a Canadian port of entry, the CBSA will use this information to verify that the visa holder is the person to whom the visa was issued.

Most applicants will provide their biometric data at Visa Application Centres (VACs). VACs are primarily independent commercial service providers contracted by the Government of Canada to facilitate the submission of visa applications. They offer greater access through more points of service. CIC currently has 60 VACs in 41 countries and envisions expanding this network to up to 150 VACs in all regions by 2014.

CIC and its partners are working closely with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to ensure robust privacy protection for biometric data. Technological safeguards are planned to ensure that client information is collected, stored, and transmitted securely. In addition, safeguards governing the protection of personal information will be built into the terms of agreement with each service provider in accordance with Canada’s privacy requirements.

More than 90 percent of visitors to Canada do not require visas and will not be affected by the introduction of biometrics into the visa process.

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