Canadian Government Expands Biometrics Collection Program

On July 31, 2018, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) will be expanding its biometrics collection program.

This change will affect foreign nationals from countries that were not previously required to submit biometric information as part of their applications.

This expansion of the biometrics collection program will result in extra time, cost and effort for employers that are bringing foreign workers to Canada. It will also create delays for foreign nationals applying for work permits on arrival to Canada.

What Is the Biometrics Collection Program?

The biometrics collection program mandates the collection of fingerprints and photos (“Biometrics Data”) from many foreign nationals as part of their applications to come to Canada for work, study, business activities or tourism.

Previously, IRCC required citizens of only 30 security sensitive countries to provide Biometrics Data as part of their applications to come to Canada. This included applications for Temporary Resident Visas, Work Permits or Study Permits for Canada. People from these listed countries were required to provide an $85 biometrics processing fee and attend to a Visa Application Centre outside of Canada as part of their applications’ processing.

Foreign nationals from countries outside those specifically listed were exempt from providing Biometrics Data, making their immigration processing easier and faster.

Who Does the Biometrics Collection Program Now Affect?

IRCC will be expanding the biometrics collection program to all foreign nationals who are applying for Temporary Resident Visas, Work Permits, Study Permits or Permanent Residency in Canada.

There are only a few exemptions to the expanded biometrics collection program, which include:

  1. Citizens of the United States, unless they are applying for Permanent Residency;
  2. Foreign nationals travelling to Canada as Tourists/Business Visitors on the basis of an Electronic Travel Authorization; and
  3. Applicants under the age of 14 or over the age of 79.

Foreign nationals travelling to Canada as Tourists/Business Visitors who require a Temporary Resident Visa will still be subject to the biometrics collection program.

This represents an extremely large increase in the number of countries whose citizens will now be required to submit biometric data before they are admitted to Canada.

Citizens from all of Europe, Africa and the Middle East will be subject to the new rules effective July 31, 2018. The program will be further expanded to Asia and the Americas in December 2018.

Once a foreign national has supplied the Biometrics Data, he or she does not have to supply it again for a period of 10 years.

How Will Biometrics Data Be Collected?

As with the previous version of the biometrics collection program, foreign nationals who apply from outside of Canada will receive a Biometrics Collection Letter within 24 hours of their applications being submitted online. They will then need to go to a Visa Application Centre and provide their Biometrics Data.

The estimated processing time for their applications will only start once this step is completed.

Employers bringing foreign nationals from previously exempt countries will now have to account for this step in their immigration processes.

The biggest change will be for foreign nationals and employers who rely on making Work Permit applications at the port of entry.

There are several countries whose citizens can apply for Work Permits on arrival to Canada. This is used in many cases where employers need to obtain a Work Permit quickly under the International Mobility Program. These types of applications will now be subject to the biometrics collection program.

As a result, foreign nationals arriving to Canada to apply at the port of entry will need to provide their Biometrics Data on arrival to Canada. As many airports are not properly equipped to collect Biometrics Data, foreign nationals will see more complicated processing and increased delays when arriving in Canada.

IRCC and the Canada Border Services Agency are rapidly expanding the presence of Visa Application Centres in foreign countries and Biometrics Data collection capabilities at 57 airports in Canada to accommodate this program expansion.

In early 2019 the program is expected to expand again to include foreign nationals who have not previously provided Biometrics Data who are applying for permit extensions from inside Canada.

Employers Should Be Prepared

Many businesses that employ foreign national workers have not had exposure to the biometrics collection program; they may have been accessing workers who were previously exempt. Employers will need to be aware of this new requirement and ensure they have prepared for its implementation.

If these changes are managed proactively, they need not disrupt your business or your access to foreign workers. Contact one of our immigration or labour and employment practice area members today.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.