The Government of Canada is opening new Visa Application Centres and service points in Europe, Africa and the Middle East to support the expansion of its biometrics program.
The new Visa Application Centres (VACs) and service points will assist in the collection of biometrics including fingerprints and a photograph for facial recognition, which all foreign nationals from Europe, the Middle East and Africa applying to visit, work, study or settle in Canada will have to provide starting July 31.
Foreign nationals from Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas will also need to provide their biometrics when applying for a visitor visa, a work or study permit, or permanent residence beginning December 31, 2018.
New VACs will open in:
- Kigali, Rwanda; Stockholm, Sweden; and Tel Aviv, Israel by mid-September 2018
- Athens, Greece; Berlin, Germany; Lyon, France; and Vienna, Austria in early November 2018 and
- Antananarivo, Madagascar and Cape Town, South Africa in early December 2018
The federal government says more VACs will open in 2019.
Meanwhile, transitional biometrics collection service points have now opened to applicants at some Canadian embassies in Europe.
The following biometrics service points will be dedicated to biometrics collection and no applications will be accepted at these service points.
- From July 31 to mid-September 2018: In Stockholm, at the Embassy of Canada to Sweden, for applicants from Sweden and neighbouring countries.
- From July 31 to early November 2018: Canadian embassies in Athens, Greece; Berlin, Germany; and Vienna, Austria for applicants from Greece, Germany, Austria and neighbouring countries.
- From July 31 to early November 2018: In a leased commercial space in Lyon, France for applicants from France and neighbouring countries.
Before visiting a biometrics service point, applicants must first receive a Biometrics Instruction Letter from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
The following applicants are exempt from the Biometrics requirement:
- Canadian citizens, citizenship applicants (including passport applicants), or existing permanent residents;
- children under the age of 14;
- applicants over the age of 79 (there is no upper age exemption for asylum claimants);
- visa-exempt nationals coming to Canada as tourists who hold a valid electronic travel authorization;
- 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;
- 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.
The federal government uses biometrics to prevent:
- identity fraud and theft;
- known criminals from entering Canada;
- deportees from re-entering Canada without permission; and
- failed refugee claimants from re-entering Canada using false identity documents.
Is it secure?
The Government of Canada says biometrics information is handled with the highest level of security and privacy. It is also stated that all information collected at a service point is deleted once it has been sent to the Canadian Immigration Biometrics Identification System, where the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) stores fingerprints in the National Repository.