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Biometric Requirements for Canadian Visa Applications

Hari Ghai

As of December 3rd, 2019, Canada has expanded its biometric requirements for visa applications. This means that international students interested in applying for study permits in Canada may need to submit biometrics with their application.

The visa application process can be intimidating, so we’ve compiled information on the biometrics expansion from the Government of Canada. Here’s what you need to know.
 

What Are Biometrics

Biometrics consists of electronic fingerprints and a digital photo that is included with your visa application.

Canadian visa officers can use biometrics to confirm your identity. This makes it more difficult for someone to forge your identity, and make it easier to resolve errors. After you give your biometrics, they will be secured in a Government of Canada database.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) will check your fingerprints against the fingerprint records of criminals, refugee claimants, deportees, and temporary resident applicants. Any matches to existing records will be analyzed by a visa officer to make a decision on your application.
 
People standing in line at airport
 

Who Needs to Give Biometrics

You will generally need to provide biometrics if you are applying for:

  • a visitor visa
  • a work or study permit
  • permanent residence
  • refugee or asylum status
  • an extension of your stay in Canada, known as a visitor record
  • a work or study permit extension

There are a few exemptions from these requirements, including citizenship applicants, existing permanent residents, children under the age of 14, and applicants over the age of 79, among others.

The Government of Canada has a simple tool to help you determine if you need to give biometrics as part of your Canadian visa application.

If you currently hold a valid visitor visa, you won’t need to give your biometrics until the next time you apply.

If you gave biometrics in the last 10 years for a visitor visa, work permit, or study permit and they’re still valid, you don’t have to give them again if you’re applying to visit, work, or study. Your biometrics are still valid for future applications within 10 years, even if your previous application was unsuccessful.

To see if your biometrics are still valid, you can use the Government of Canada’s Check Status tool.
 
Women discussing paperwork
 

How to Give Biometrics

The first step to giving your biometrics is paying the biometrics fee ($85 CAD for an individual applicant) when you submit your visa application. This will ensure you get your instruction letter as soon as possible, which allows you to give your biometrics at an official collection point.

Once you receive your instruction letter, you will need to make an appointment to give your biometrics at a collection service point. Your application will not be processed until you submit your fingerprints and photo. Your biometrics will be valid for 10 years for any future visa or permit applications.

Photo and Fingerprint Tips

  • When you have your photograph taken, your whole face must be clearly visible. You can request to have your photo taken by a person of the same gender, and can also ask for a privacy curtain. Applicants can wear religious headgear as long as their face is visible.
  • Don’t wear white or light clothing, including headgear.
  • Don’t wear henna on your hands for your appointment.
  • Make sure any injuries, cuts, or crack on your fingers have healed before giving your fingerprints.

 

Processing Time

How fast you get your instruction letter depends on how you apply and when you pay your biometrics fee. You can find more information based on how you will apply on the Government of Canada website.

For visitor visa and study or work permit applicants, the time it takes you to give your biometrics isn’t included in the application processing time. Visa officials cannot begin processing your application until they have received your fingerprints and photo.

Tips for Reducing Application Delays

  • Don’t mail in your application. Apply online or in-person at a Visa Application Centre.
  • Pay the application and biometrics fees when you submit your application.
  • Give your biometrics at the same time you apply at a Visa Application Centre, or as soon as possible after getting your Biometric Instruction Letter.
  • Consider transit time if your closest Visa Application Centre requires travel.
  • If you have a permanent injury or medical condition on your face or hands, bring any documentation you have about your condition to your Visa Application Centre appointment.

If you have any questions about your own visa process, reach out to ApplyBoard’s Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant, Hari Ghai, at hari.ghai@applyboard.com.