Biometric scans for visas

By Jasminee Sahoye

A new immigration requirement for temporary resident visas, study and work permits for citizens of a number of countries including Jamaica, Haiti and Colombia to enter Canada becomes effective this year.

Citizens from these countries will be required to have their fingerprints and photographs collected before arriving in Canada.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) published proposed regulations on December 8, 2012 that will authorize the collection and use of biometric data from certain foreign nationals who apply for a temporary resident visa, study permit and work permit.

Biometrics is used as a measurement of one’s unique physical characteristics such as fingerprints and facial image. It aids in the identification of the applicant because of the uniqueness of these identifiers.

The fingerprints collected would be sent to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for storage and would be checked against the fingerprint records of refugee claimants, previous deportees, persons with Canadian criminal records, and previous temporary resident applicants before a visa decision is made.

The biometric identity established abroad would then be checked by a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer at a Canadian port of entry, when the temporary resident applied for admission to Canada.
The CBSA officer will initially compare the digital photograph in the system with the individual who was seeking entry. Where a CBSA officer has concerns regarding the identity of that individual, he or she would also have the discretion to request an electronic scan of the individual’s fingerprints at an equipped port of entry for comparison against those collected abroad.

According to CIC, this new biometrics will help to prevent the return of deportees highlighting cases where deportees returned several times; in one instance, a man who was convicted for assault and drug trafficking was deported and returned 10 times.

Applicants who are subject to the biometric requirement will be required to pay a biometrics fee of $85 CAD.

The new biometric requirement would exempt applicants who are under the age of 14 and over the age of 79 and properly accredited diplomats, consular officers, representatives or officials of a country other than Canada, of the United Nations or any of its agencies or of any intergovernmental organization of which Canada is a member, or is a family member of one of them.

Other categories of applicants who would be exempted from the biometrics requirement include a holder of a valid United States entry visa who is destined to or returning from that country, is seeking to enter Canada for a period of less than 48 hours and is travelling by transporter’s vehicle to a destination other than Canada, or transiting through or stopping over in Canada for refuelling or for the continuation of their journey in another transporter’s vehicle.

The biometrics requirements would not be applicable for anyone applying for a study or work permit who live in Canada and made refugee protection claim that has not been determined as well as those that refugee protection has been conferred and a person who is a member of the Convention refugees abroad class or a humanitarian-protected persons abroad class.

“Biometrics will be an important new tool to help protect the safety and security of Canadians by reducing identity fraud and identity theft,” said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said last year when he introduced legislation to protection the integrity of Canada`s immigration system.

“As fraudsters become more sophisticated, biometrics will improve our ability to keep violent criminals and those who pose a threat to Canada out. In short, biometrics will strengthen the integrity of Canada’s immigration system while helping facilitate legitimate travel,” Kenney said.

He added that these measures would put Canada in line with international partners such as the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia, and the United States. This would help prevent known criminals, failed refugee claimants and deportees from using a fake identity to obtain a visa. The use of biometrics would also bolster Canada’s existing measures to facilitate legitimate travel by providing a fast and reliable tool for confirming identity.