24 May 2018


What are biometrics?

Biometrics are unique physical characteristics including fingerprints and facial features. The Canadian government uses biometrics to verify a person's identity.

Who will need to provide biometrics starting summer 2018?

As soon as July 31, 2018, individuals from Europe, the Middle East and Africa applying for permanent residence or temporary status documents (including a work permit, study permit or visitor visa) will be required to provide biometrics before their applications are processed. Applicants from Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas will be subject to the biometrics requirement as soon as December 31, 2018.

The purpose of the biometrics expansion is to help facilitate the entry of travelers with legitimate identities, prevent identity fraud and increase biometric-based information sharing between Canada and the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.


The following individuals will be exempt from the biometrics requirement:

  • Canadian citizens, citizenship applicants (including passport applicants), or existing permanent residents of Canada;
  • Visa-exempt nationals coming to Canada as tourists who hold a valid Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA);
  • Children under the age of 14;
  • Applicants over the age of 79 (unless the applicant is an asylum claimant);
  • Heads of state and heads of government;
  • Cabinet ministers and accredited diplomats of other countries and the United Nations, coming to Canada on official business;
  • U.S. visa holders transiting through Canada;
  • U.S. citizens, unless applying for permanent residence in 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 have already provided biometrics in support of a permanent resident application that is still in progress.

How this will work in practice  

For an application made through an overseas consulate, a biometrics collection letter will be issued after the application is submitted. The applicant will then have 30 days to complete his or her biometrics. The processing time for the application will not start until biometrics are complete. 

For port-of-entry applications, the Canadian government will be rolling out numerous biometric collection points across the country. Depending on the location of entry, biometrics will either be automatically conducted at primary inspection kiosks or collected by RCMP officers or border services officers upon referral to secondary inspection.

The information collected from biometrics will be used for the purposes of confirming if the applicant has applied to enter Canada before using the same or a different identity, has a previous Canadian criminal record or has been removed from Canada in the past.

Biometrics will be valid for 10 years. Accordingly, once biometrics are provided with initial applications, subsequent biometrics will not be required for extensions of status documents.

NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. Gowling WLG professionals will be pleased to discuss resolutions to specific legal concerns you may have.

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