On June 29, 2018, Immigration Canada announced the following changes in a news letter. The affect of these changes for Foreign Nationals will add another layer of inspections for applicants in the below noted categories.

Starting July 31, 2018, Canada will expand its biometrics program. Fingerprints and a photo will become mandatory for nationals from Europe, the Middle East and Africa applying for a Canadian visitor visas, work or study permits, permanent residence or asylum seekers in Canada.  This requirement will be expanded to the Americas, Asia, and Asia-Pacific by December 31, 2018.

Those travelling from visa-exempt countries who are coming to Canada as tourists with a valid Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) are not required to provide biometrics.

Exemptions are as follows:

  • 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;
  • S. visa holders transiting through Canada;
  • 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);
  • 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.

The process of providing biometrics information only takes a few minutes and costs CAD $85 for individuals or CAD $170 for a family that is applying together.

There will be eight major Canadian airports with self-serve Primary Inspection Kiosks where fingerprints will be verified, photos confirmed and visitors can make an on-screen declaration.

Biometrics is used in both phases of the application and entry into Canada. The process will allow visa officers to screen applicants for prior criminal convictions or Canadian immigration infractions as well as the confirmation of the applicant’s identity. Discretion will be with the Canada Border Agency (CBSA) officers at Canadian airports and at land ports of entry.

To accommodate increased demand this summer and fall in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, the Government of Canada is pleased to announce that additional Visa Application Centers (VACs) will open in:

  • Kigali, Rwanda; Stockholm, Sweden; and Tel Aviv, Israel by mid-September 2018
  • Athens, Greece; Berlin, Germany; Lyon, France; and Vienna, Austria in early November 2018 and
  • Antananarivo, Madagascar and Cape Town, South Africa in early December 2018

Additional VACs will also open in 2019. Locations will be announced at a later date.

In advance of these VACs opening, some Canadian embassies in Europe will offer interim biometrics collection service points for applicants who have applied online or by mail and have received a Biometrics Instruction Letter.

Applicants can also provide their biometrics at any nearby VAC:

  • From July 31 to mid-September 2018: In Stockholm, at the Embassy of Canada to Sweden, for applicants from Sweden and neighbouring countries.
  • From July 31 to early November 2018: Canadian embassies in Athens, Greece; Berlin, Germany; and Vienna, Austria for applicants from Greece, Germany, Austria and neighbouring countries.
  • From July 31 to early November 2018: In a leased commercial space in Lyon, France for applicants from France and neighbouring countries.

All of the above temporary service points will only collect biometrics. Applications will not be accepted at these locations.

Applicants must first apply on Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada’s website or by mail, and must have received a Biometrics Instruction Letter, before providing their biometrics in support of an application.

This new layer of inspections although complicating an already complex process will in one regard help to eliminate disappointment for applicants at ports of entry. Immigration will now have prior information at their initial screenings of applicants as to whether or not there maybe some impediment to their entry into Canada.