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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. In this blog post, we want to let you know everything you need to know about Biometrics.

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. The department uses 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.

To check your situation and whether you need to give biometrics, you can use this handy tool that the Immigration department has created for your reference: https://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/biometrics.asp

Simply if you answer the different questions, the tool will indicate if you need to give biometrics. It is always good to check as there might be different policies and measures in place regarding biometrics.

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

It is very important to note that if you provided biometrics within the last 10 years for a temporary resident status application (i.e. 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 clicking here. This tool allows you to find out if you have valid biometrics by inputting your last name, UCI (unique client identifier), date of birth, and country of birth.

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 instruction 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 you must complete them as soon as you receive the request. Even if you think you may have valid biometrics, it is still possible to receive a biometrics request letter, depending on the application and your situation.

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. If you do not pay the biometrics fee upfront or if you paid the fees wrong, you would receive a request letter asking for the biometrics fees to be paid. If you pay the biometrics fee, and it turns out you don’t need to do biometrics, then you will receive a refund for these fees paid.

It is usually better to pay your biometrics fee upfront when you submit your application, and this 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, as it is auto-generated. 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 while 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
  • At the Port of Entry in Canada if you are making an application at the border

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. It is advised that you contact the biometrics collection service point first and get the required information before going there in person. This will ensure that you are not wasting any time or the trip there, especially if the location is far away from you.

If you have already paid the biometrics fees beforehand, you should not expect to pay any fees at the collection center.

To help you find the closest location to you, you can click here. There might be occasions where a center is closed or not taking appointments. You will need to go to the closest alternative, which for some may be another city or even another country! For example, some countries, such as Switzerland, have no Visa Application Centres so applicants would need to go to another country to do biometrics.

What if I can’t provide biometrics before the deadline?

As the deadline to provide biometrics is usually within 30 days, there may be situations where an applicant is unable to complete biometrics before then.

You should submit an update to the Webform and explain your case as to why biometrics can’t be done before the deadline. You should always provide proof and context to support your explanation, such as screenshots showing the closest VAC is closed or emails stating that you can’t travel to another country at this time.

Even if you can’t provide biometrics before the deadline, you can still use your old biometrics request letter at the biometric collection site and don’t have to request to be issued a new request letter. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you are applying for a study permit, work permit, or a visitor visa for the first time, you will need to provide your biometrics. As the deadline is quite short, it is important to be aware of these policies so there are no delays in the process, and you will be prepared once the biometrics request is issued. 

Have questions about biometrics? Send us an email with your concern and we’re happy to help you!


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