Backgrounder — Immigration Information Sharing Treaty

The historic Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan was signed in 2011 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama. The Plan will accelerate the vital flow of people and goods between Canada and the United States, promoting job creation and economic competitiveness, while strengthening the security of both countries.

The adoption of the Immigration Information Sharing Treaty enables our two countries to share systematically information from third-country nationals who apply for a visa or permit to travel to either country. The Treaty also provides an additional tool for regular, systematic information sharing on in-land asylum claimants, which already occurs on a case-by-case basis under an existing agreement between Canada and the United States.

When a third-country national applies to Canada for a visa or a permit, or claims asylum, Canada will send an automated request for data to the United States. The request will contain limited information, such as name and date of birth in the case of biographic sharing, or an anonymous fingerprint in the case of biometric sharing. If the identity matches that on a previous application, immigration information may be shared, such as whether the person has previously been refused a visa or removed from the other country. All information shared as part of the initial request will be automatically purged from U.S. systems regardless of whether a match has been found.

The same process would apply in reverse when a third-country national applies to the U.S. for a visa or claims asylum.   

Biographic immigration information sharing is set to begin in 2013, and biometric sharing in 2014.

Starting in 2013, the Government of Canada plans to introduce the use of biometrics, through the collection of a photograph and fingerprints, for nationals from twenty-nine countries and one territory who apply for a temporary resident visa, work permit, or study permit. Through automated and systematic biometric information sharing, both Canadian and U.S. authorities will be able to identify previously failed refugee claimants, deportees, previously refused overseas refugee resettlement applicants, and visitor visa applicants trying to enter our countries under fraudulent identities.  

Under the Treaty, information will not be shared on Canadian or U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Any information shared on travellers and asylum seekers will be handled responsibly and, as with other information sharing agreements, exchanged in accordance with relevant Canadian laws including the Privacy Act to ensure individuals’ privacy rights are considered and protected.

Even with increased information sharing, Canada retains its sovereignty in making admissibility decisions. Canadian visa officers and border services officers will continue to consider all information presented before making admissibility decisions in accordance with Canadian immigration law. 

Enhanced screening initiatives, including systematic immigration information sharing and the Electronic Travel Authorization system, were agreed to in the Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan to achieve the security and economic competitiveness goals outlined in the Beyond the Border Declaration. The Declaration articulates a shared vision in which both countries work together to address threats at the earliest point possible while facilitating the legitimate movement of people, goods and services across our shared border.

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