On December 8 2012 Citizenship and Immigration Canada published proposed regulations(1) that will authorise the collection and use of biometric data from certain foreign nationals who apply for a temporary resident visa, study permit or work permit. Biometrics is the measurement of an individual's unique physical characteristics, such as fingerprints and facial image; an applicant's identity can be established through biometrics due to the uniqueness of these identifiers.

From 2013 temporary resident visa, study permit and work permit applicants from certain visa-required countries and territories seeking to enter Canada will be required to have their biometric information (ie, fingerprints and photograph) collected overseas before arriving in Canada. Canadian citizens and permanent residents will not be subject to the proposed regulations.

Fingerprints collected abroad will be sent to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for storage and will 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 will then be checked by a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer at a Canadian port of entry when the temporary resident applies for admission to Canada.

The CBSA officer will initially compare the digital photograph in the system with the individual who is seeking entry. Where a CBSA officer has concerns regarding the identity of that individual, he or she will 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.

Under the proposed regulations, persons from the following countries and territory who apply for a temporary resident visa, study permit or work permit will be required to provide their fingerprints and photograph at the time of application:

  • citizens of Colombia, Haiti or Jamaica (as of September 2 2013);
  • citizens of Albania, Algeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan or Tunisia (as of October 15 2013);
  • citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Vietnam or Yemen (as of December 7 2013); and
  • holders of passports or travel documents issued by the Palestinian Authority (as of December 7 2013).

The proposed regulations include exemptions from biometric enrolment for certain categories of applicant. Applicants who fall into the following categories will be exempt from the requirement to provide biometric information:

  • persons who are under the age of 14 or over the age of 79;
  • properly accredited diplomats, consular officers, representatives or officials of a country other than Canada, the United Nations or any of its agencies or any intergovernmental organisation of which Canada is a member, or family members of such individuals; and
  • holders of valid US entry visas who are travelling to or returning from the United States, and who are seeking to enter Canada for a period of less than 48 hours and are travelling by transporter's vehicle to a destination other than Canada, or transiting through or stopping over in Canada for refueling or for the continuation of their journey in another transporter's vehicle.

The following individuals will also be exempt from the requirement to provide biometric information when applying for a study or work permit:

  • persons in Canada who have made a claim for refugee protection that has not been determined;
  • persons in Canada on whom refugee protection has been conferred; and
  • persons who are members of the Convention Refugees Abroad Class or Humanitarian-Protected Persons Abroad Class.

Applicants who are subject to the biometric requirement will be required to pay a biometrics fee of C$85. However, the following applicants will be exempt from payment of the biometrics fee:

  • members of the suite of a properly accredited diplomat, consular officer, representative or official of a country other than Canada, the United Nations or any of its agencies or any intergovernmental organisation of which Canada is a member;
  • members of the armed forces of a country that is a designated state for the purposes of the Visiting Forces Act, including persons who have been designated as civilian components of that visiting force under Paragraph 4(c) of the act, and members of their family;
  • persons who are seeking to enter Canada for the purpose of:
    • attending a meeting hosted by the Canadian government, an organisation of the United Nations or the Organisation of American States; or
    • attending a meeting at the invitation of the Canadian government as a representative of the Organisation of American States or the Caribbean Development Bank;
  • persons who are seeking to enter Canada as competitors, coaches, judges, team officials, medical staff members or members of a national or international sports organising body participating in the Pan-American Games when held in Canada, or as performers participating in a festival associated with the games;
  • persons who are seeking to enter Canada for a period of less than 48 hours and are 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;
  • persons applying for a study permit or work permit who are:
    • family members of a person in Canada who has made a refugee claim that has not yet been determined by the Refugee Protection Division;
    • family members of a person in Canada on whom refugee protection has been conferred; or
    • family members of a person who is a member of the Convention Refugees Abroad Class or Humanitarian-protected Persons Abroad Class ;
  • persons whose work in Canada would create or maintain reciprocal employment for Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada in other countries and who are family members of an officer of a foreign government sent under an exchange agreement between Canada and one or more countries to take up duties with a federal or provincial agency; and
  • persons with a diplomatic or official passport (ie, a government official) who are applying for a temporary resident visa, a study permit or a work permit.

The proposed regulations provide for a maximum fee of C$170 for family members who apply for a temporary resident visa at the same time and place, and of C$255 for groups of three or more performing artists and their staff who apply for a work permit at the same time and place. These maximum fees are consistent with those currently offered to families and performing artists and their staff when applying for visas or work permits.

For further information on this topic please contact Henry J Chang at Blaney McMurtry LLP by telephone (+1 416 593 1221), fax (+1 416 593 5437) or email (hchang@blaney.com).

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Endnotes

(1) Available at http://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p1/2012/2012-12-08/html/reg2-eng.html.