Sat | Feb 22, 2020

Immigration Corner |What is biometrics?

Published:Tuesday | April 16, 2019 | 12:22 AM
Deidre S. Powell
Deidre S. Powell

Dear Miss Powell,

I just have a quick question. My daughter applied to move to Canada and she said she has to give them her biometrics. What does that really mean? I want to apply for a visitor’s visa so that I can help her move and get settled. Can you tell me if visitors have to go through that process to get a visa? What do they use that information for? I am a 65-year-old woman and I’m not going to stay in cold Canada. I am just planning to help my daughter and her kids to go up and get settled and I’m coming right back to my home. Hope to hear from you soon.


Dear AH,

Most individuals who wish to visit, live, work or study in Canada are required to submit biographic information to Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), in order to be granted permission to enter the country. Applicants are required to appear in person at a biometrics collection service location or visa application centre (VAC) to provide their fingerprints and to have a digital photograph taken. Your application will not be completed until the biometric requirement has been complied with. Failure to provide the required information could result in the application being refused. The biometrics fee is CAD$85 per person or CAD$170 for a family.

The information collected will be used to confirm a person’s identity based on not just by their name, date of birth and identity documents, but also by fingerprinting and photograph. This information is valid for 10 years. So if you have never provided your fingerprints to the Canadian authorities before, this will be required before a temporary resident visa or permanent resident application is approved.

Why is Biometrics Collected

The Canadian visa officers will use your biometrics to verify and confirm your identity. This process makes it more difficult for someone to forge, alter, steal or use your identity and it makes it easier for you to enter and re-enter Canada. It also helps the IRCC to resolve problems or errors which could happen if you share the same name as another individual. The entire process is intended to be for your own security and the security of others in Canada.

Some persons such as young children, the elderly and other persons visiting Canada on official business, may be exempt from the collection of this information. The following persons are exempted - children under the age of 14; applicants over the age of 79; diplomats and officials travelling on official business; US visa holders transiting through Canada; refugee claimants or protected persons who have already provided biometrics and are applying for a study or work permit; and temporary resident applicants, who already have a valid biometric enrolment on file within the last 10 years. Citizens of the USA are exempted from biometrics collection when applying for a work permit, study permit, or temporary resident permit.

What do they do with the Information?

Once you have given the information to the VAC nearest you, your details, fingerprints and photo will be encrypted and sent electronically to a secure Government of Canada database or the Canadian Immigration Biometrics Identification System, where it will be stored for future reference.

Additionally, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) will be commissioned to check your fingerprints against the fingerprint records of criminals, refugee claimants, deportees and other temporary resident applicants. If there is a match in the existing RCMP database, the records will be analysed by a visa officer, who will then make a final decision on your application.

Also, once you arrive in Canada, a Canada Border Services Agency officer will use your biometrics to verify that you are the same person to whom the visa was granted, before you are permitted to enter into Canada.

Verifying a person’s identity is very important to the Government of Canada, especially since identity theft has become more prevalent in society. This system was implemented to protect the integrity of the immigration system, as well as to ensure the safety and security of Canadians and those who visit Canada. If you have any other issues or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

Deidre S. Powell is a lawyer, mediator and notary public who is a member of the Jamaican and Ontario, Canada bars, with office located in Ottawa, Ontario. Her areas of practice are in immigration, real estate, family and administration of estates. Email: Subject line: Immigration Tel: 613.695.8777/ 876-922-4092