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Biometrics – What are they and do I need them?

You have no doubt noticed that Biometrics are firmly entrenched into the immigration system after they have been brought online over a few years. They are now a mandatory part of the immigration process and have been rolled out both domestically and internationally.

What are biometrics and why are they required for immigration purposes?

Biometrics refer to fingerprints and photos requested by the Government of Canada as part of your immigration application. The government uses biometrics for screening and to verify your identity. They use your fingerprints to check against immigration and criminal fingerprint records and to ensure that the person seeking entry to Canada is the same person that was granted a visa, permit or permanent residence. It also helps to prevent individuals from using stolen or fraudulent documents to enter Canada.

Who needs to give biometrics?

If you are a foreign national and between the ages of 14 and 79 you generally need to give biometrics if you apply for the following immigration applications:

• A visitor visa;
• A work or study permit;
• Permanent Residence;
• Refugee or Asylum status;
• An extension of your visitor stay in Canada;
• A work or study permit extension.

Some applicants are not required to give biometrics and this includes the following:

• Foreign nationals who do not require a visa to visit Canada
• U.S. visa holders transiting through Canada
• Heads of state and government, applicants who hold a diplomatic or official visa
• Refugee claimants or protected persons who have already provided biometrics and are applying for a study or work permit
• Temporary resident applicants who have already provided biometrics in support of a permanent resident application that is still in progress

If you provided biometrics within the last 10 years for a temporary resident status application (e.g. visit, work or study), you are not required to provide them again to visit, study or work as long as they are still valid. You can check the validity of your biometrics by going to this link: https://onlineservices-servicesenligne.cic.gc.ca/extapp/termsAndConditions?&lang=en

Biometrics provided for temporary status applications are not valid for Permanent Resident applications and you will have to provide new biometrics for each Permanent Resident application you submit.

When should I provide my biometrics?

You cannot provide “upfront” biometrics. Biometrics can only be submitted after they have been requested as part of your immigration application. When the government is ready to ask you to complete your biometrics you will receive a biometrics request letter which you will need to take with you, along with your passport or travel document, when completing your biometrics. You must complete the request within 30 days of receiving it.

Temporary visa applications will not be processed until you have paid for and provided your biometrics, so it is important that you complete them as soon as you receive the request.

How much does it cost to complete my biometrics and when should I pay?

The processing fee for biometrics is currently $85 CAD for an individual and $170 CAD for a family applying at the same time. There is no fee for biometrics required as part of a Transit visa. Paying your biometrics fee when you submit your application will ensure that the processing of your application is not delayed.

If you are applying online and have paid the biometrics fee upfront, you should receive your biometrics request letter by email within 24 hours. If your application was submitted by mail it may take several days or weeks to receive your biometrics request. If you submit your application at a Visa Application Centre (VAC) and pay the fees upfront, you can book an appointment to provide your biometrics at the same time that you submit your application at the VAC. In this case, you will not need to bring a biometrics request letter with you.

Where can I get my biometrics done?

You must give your biometrics in person at an official biometrics collection service point. These include:

• Visa Application Centres (VACs) worldwide
• Application Support Centers (ASCs) in the United States and its territories
• Designated Service Canada offices (SCOs) in Canada

If you are applying from outside of Canada, you can provide your biometrics at a Visa Application Centre in your country of residence or in any country where you have official status. If you are legally within the United States, you can also book an appointment at an Application Support Centre.

If you are in Canada, you can book an appointment at a Service Canada Office.

To help you find the closest location to you, you can follow this link: https://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/where-to-give-biometrics.asp

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