Canada Introduces Biometric Identification for Foreign Travellers

Fingerprint Scanner by NEC

by NEC / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

On June 4, 2015, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced an expanded biometric identification program for most foreign travellers, excluding citizens of the USA, arriving in Canada. This includes tourists, temporary foreign workers, students, and refugees, and any other foreign visitor to Canada who is not a citizen of the USA. Currently the details are being worked out by the authorities and need to be finalized, but here is what we know so far:

  • CAD$312.6 million will be spent over 5 years to expand biometric screening procedures for all foreign travellers entering Canada on a visa. This will include those applying for temporary residence (students and Temporary Workers for example) and those applying for Permanent Residence.
  • U.S. travellers will be excluded from this requirement. Visitors who do not currently require visas will also be exempt from this requirement for the foreseeable future.
  • The expanded biometrics screening is expected to be in place by 2018/19.
  • Biometric screening will be implemented jointly by:
    • Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC);
    • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)
    • The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and
    • Shared Services Canada (SSC).
  • Travellers will be able to provide biometrics, like fingerprints, at 180 biometric collection service points in 94 countries. The CIC already has a list of some of these locations for citizens who already are required to give biometrics.

Get a Visa

The process of biometric screening will function as follows:

Step # Activity Biometric Screening and Indentification
1 Applicants provide their biometrics You will need to provide your fingerprint and have a digital photograph taken.
2 Screening of Application Your fingerprints are searched against RCMP databases of: previous immigration applicants, previous refugee claimants, Canadian criminal records, and deportees. This establishes identity and provides information on whether or not you are inadmissible to Canada.
3 Arrival processing Your fingerprints are verified upon arrival at self-service kiosks in airports. Fingerprint verification capacity will also exist at other ports of entry.
4 Refugee claims Biometric data – collected from refugees since 1993 – will be matched against biometric data from temporary and permanent residents to determine traveller identity.
5 Detention and Removals Biometric data from temporary and permanent residents will be matched against biometric information currently collected from deportees and persons issued a removal order as well as deportee and removals records. This will ensure persons inappropriately returning to Canada are stopped. 
6 Information Sharing Collected fingerprints will be compared against databases in the USA, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. If immigration authorities in these countries have information that you have violated immigration, terrorism, or criminal laws, you will be not be able to hide this information from Canadian immigration authorities. Your biometric information will not be used or stored by any of these other countries however. They will be destroyed by the other country after the query has been completed.

Find Visa Acceptance Centre (VAC)

As CIC releases more information on the expanded biometric screening program, we will keep you up to date with the latest details. Stay tuned for updates


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