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Traveling to Canada from Europe, the Middle East or Africa? You may need to get fingerprinted

By Véronique Malka

iStock imageryThe Canadian government is expanding the list of continents needing biometrics when applying for a visitor visa, study or work permit, or permanent residence. Starting July 31, 2018, applicants from Europe, the Middle East and Africa will be required to provide biometrics. Additional applicants from Asia, Asia Pacific, and the Americas will be required to provide biometrics starting December 31, 2018. The new rules also apply to refugee or asylum seekers.

According to the Government of Canada the purpose of Biometrics is to effectively manage identity, facilitate application processing, simplify entry for travelers and protect the health, safety and security of Canadians.  Biometrics allow the government to manage identity documents of travelers and residents of Canada, as it is a trusted service used by over 70 countries around the world. This process involves scanning fingerprints through a criminal and immigration search in databases including official government information from Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

The following applicants will be exempt from the requirements to provide biometrics:

  • Canadian citizens, citizenship applicants (including passport applicants), or existing permanent residents
  • visa-exempt nationals coming to Canada as tourists who hold a valid Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)
  • children under the age of 14
  • applicants over the age of 79 (there is no upper age exemption for asylum claimants)
  • heads of state and heads of government
  • cabinet ministers and accredited diplomats of other countries and the United Nations, coming to Canada on official business
  • U.S. visa holders transiting through Canada
  • refugee claimants or protected persons who have already provided biometrics and are applying for a study or work permit
  • temporary resident applicants who have already provided biometrics in support of a permanent resident application that is still in progress

There is an additional exemption for applicants applying for a visa, work or study permit or permanent residents of Canada, who are exempt until the in-Canada service is established.

Biometrics cost CAD$85 for individual applicants, CAD $170 for families, and CAD$255 for 3 or more performing artists, applying for work permits as a group. First time applicants must give biometrics. To facilitate repeat travel, applicants for a visitor visa, study permit or work permit will only need to give their biometrics once every 10 years. Permanent residence applicants only need to submit their fingerprints once, with their application.

Most applicants must apply for biometrics outside of Canada at a Visa Application Centre (“VAC”). Asylum claimants and select eligible work and study permit applicants may apply at a Canadian port of entry.

It is important to note that time allotted for the collection and screening of biometrics is not part of the application processing times, so applicants are encouraged to apply for biometrics as soon as possible to avoid delays in the processing of their application. Although the actual process of giving biometrics only takes about 15minutes, applicants should consider factors that may delay their application like travel time if there is no VAC in their area/country.

After July 2018, when biometrics become required for nationals of many more countries, if biometrics are not provided when requested, your application will be considered incomplete and lack of a timely response may cause delays in the processing of your application.

For more information about how the new biometrics requirements may affect you, contact Véronique Malka at: vmalka@ckrlaw.com.

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