Canada has one of the highest rates of immigration in the world, and since confederation in 1867 over 17 million people have come to live in Canada and call it home. Canada is also desirable destination for visitors, students and business people. However, as of July 31 people wishing to enter Canada from Europe, the Middle East or Africa and applying for a Canadian visitor visa, work or study permit, permanent residence or asylum will require fingerprints and a photo. These new rules, referred to as biometrics, will also apply to Asia, Asia-Pacific and the Americas as of December 31, 2018.
However, there are some exemptions to the rules including travellers from visa-exempt countries who are coming to Canada as tourists with a valid Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), young children and the very elderly, Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and government diplomats in Canada on official business, among other exemptions.
For example, travelers from the United Arab Emirates who are visiting Canada for the purpose of pleasure, business trips, or family visits will only be required to have a valid electronic travel authorisation (eTA). However, UAE passport holders who are applying for study or work permits or for permanent residence status in Canada will need to provide biometric information prior to entering the country.
According to the Canadian government, the purpose of the new requirements is to simplify entry into Canada for low-risk travellers and to streamline application processing. The biometric information will enable authorities to confirm identities and screen applicants for criminal records and immigration infractions. Applicants will be able to provide their information at Canadian airports as well as at Canada-authorized Visa Application Centres(VAC) already set up in 95 countries.
Said Ahmad Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, “By expanding our biometrics programme, we facilitate entry into Canada,” adding that “a key feature of biometrics expansion is that temporary residents will only have to provide their biometrics once every 10 years.” Meanwhile Ralph Goodale, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, put more of a security spin on the new rules, stating that, “biometrics will help prevent identity fraud, identify those who pose a security risk and stop known criminals from entering Canada.”
Immigration lawyer in Toronto, Ronen Kurzfeld, notes however that the new rules do not change the requirement for new immigration applicants to meet Canadian citizenship and immigration criteria. The new requirements do come at an additional cost to applicants, however, with the price being CAD $85 for an individual and CAD $170 for a family. Fingerprints will be kept for 15 years or until the applicant becomes a citizenship.