Using fingerprints to identify people dates back to the 19th century. As early as 1851, fingerprints have been used for identifying people. In addition to their signatures, fingerprints were a must in contracts.
Today, this human characteristic unique to each individual remains to be the most reliable biometric. Why fingerprints? Because unlike all other human characteristics like facial features, it remains constant and is unique to a person. This is assuming the absence of injuries to the finger pads, of course.
For Canada, an important step in the application process is the provision of biometrics. In particular, an applicant for a visa needs to provide a sample of their fingerprints.
And, this is the case for any visa application in Canada.
Who Needs To Submit Biometrics?
By biometrics, we mean a photo and, of course, fingerprints. A general rule is that visa applicants need to submit samples of their fingerprints. These also need to be provided to a visa application center (VAC) or domestically through a Service Canada office. These places are biometrics collection points.
If you are applying for a tourist or visitor visa, you need to give your biometrics. This will also be the case if you are applying for work or study permit before entering Canada. If you need to extend your stay on your visitor visa, you also need to give your biometrics. The same applies to an extension of your work or study permit. All visa extensions require you to give your biometrics.
You also have to give your biometrics when applying for permanent residence. And, after the enrolment of your fingerprints and photo, your biometrics will be valid for 10 years.
Refugees and asylum seekers also need to provide biometric data.
In short, you have to give your biometrics if:
- You are applying for a visitor visa.
- You are applying for a work or study permit.
- You need to apply for an extension of your stay.
- You are applying for permanent residence.
- You are a refugee or asylum seeker.
Some circumstances do not require fingerprints and a photo. For instance, you do not need to give your biometrics if you are applying for citizenship. After all, the eligibility to do so implies that you are already a permanent resident.
Travelers from visa-exempt countries also do not need to give their biometrics. Here’s how to check, if your country is visa-exempt.
Travelers from these countries do not need a visa. Instead, they can enter Canada with an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) on their passports.
If you happen to be a US visa holder passing through Canada, there is no need to give your biometrics. Also, as a US citizen, you do not have to register your fingerprint and photo to apply for a work or study permit in Canada.
Children under the age of 14 and applicants over 79 do not need to give biometrics. Unless they are asylum seekers, of course.
Lastly, you may be a temporary resident with an ongoing application for permanent residence. Since you may have already provided biometrics, there is no need to provide them again. Again, the validity of biometrics is 10 years. By the time of expiration, your application will have already been approved or rejected.
To summarize, the following do not have to give biometrics:
- Travelers from visa-exempt countries
- Children under the age of 14 and people over the age of 79 (except asylum seekers)
- US nationals
- Applicants for Canadian citizenship
- Temporary residents with an ongoing application for permanent residence in Canada
Where To Submit Biometrics
In Canada, applicants for a visa could visit any Service Canada office to register their fingerprints and photo. A Service Canada office is a biometrics collection point
Besides Service Canada, you could avail of the services of visa application centers (VACs). This is a viable option for people living outside Canada. Visa application centers perform the following services:
- Send applications and passports to the visa office of the government of Canada
- Collect biometric data (your fingerprints and photo)
- Respond to the inquiries of visa applicants
To submit fingerprints and photos, you need to have an appointment. You also need to submit your biometric data in person at a VAC. Starting July 31, 2020, the new fee for the processing of biometrics will be CAD $85 for an individual applicant. For a family, the fee is CAD $175.
IMPORTANT: Services During The COVID-19 Pandemic
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, some of the services of Service Canada and VACs have been temporarily suspended. In other words, some VACs and Service Canada offices are open. Others are closed. So, in some places, some biometrics collection points are not in service.
You could find out the status of a biometrics collection point office near you by visiting the government of Canada’s main site.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have also led IRCC and CSBA to temporarily exempt those already in Canada from giving their biometrics. For now, you do not have to give your biometrics if you are applying from within Canada:
- To extend your stay as a visitor, student, or temporary worker
- To apply for a work or study permit
- To apply for a visitor visa
- To apply for a temporary residence permit
The Canadian government continues to make announcements. So, some rules and exemptions may change.
To make sure that you go about the process of your visa applications correctly, visit the Canadian government’s main site regularly.
Steps for Submitting Fingerprints and Photos
Here are the steps for giving biometrics.
1. Pay the Biometrics Fee
Once again, the fee is CAD $85 for a single applicant. If you are applying with your family, you need to pay CAD $175.
For transit visas, no fee is required.
2. Obtain the Letter of Instruction
After payment of the biometrics fee, you will receive a letter. This letter serves as proof that you have an appointment to give biometrics. This letter contains instructions. The instructions will where and when you can give your biometrics.
Because this letter is your document for an appointment, you need to bring this on the day you provide your fingerprints and photograph.
Also, bring your passport.
3. Provide Your Biometrics at an Official Biometrics Collection Point
You need to bring the letter of instruction with you along with your passport.
Here are the general guidelines for biometrics:
- Keep your hands henna-free.
- Let hand injuries or cuts heal before giving biometrics.
- Do not wear any headgear. (headwear for religious purposes like kippas and hijabs are permitted as long as the face is fully visible on camera)
What Happens After Submission of Biometrics?
A couple of things need to be clarified.
Do Biometrics Mean Approval of Application?
Biometrics are used as part of an applicant’s overall data. This data is used to assess whether or not an applicant for a Canadian visa is eligible for approval. With that in mind, you need to understand that the request to submit biometrics is not a sign of approval. Nor will the provision of fingerprints and photos fully guarantee the approval of your visa application.
Again, visa offices request your biometrics so that they could have more data by which to identify you. Nothing more.
Another area that needs to be discussed is the waiting time. In particular, the waiting time between giving biometrics and receiving a Canadian visa.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Canadian Visa After Biometrics?
The waiting time varies. And, it depends on a number of factors. One of them is where the application was made. For obvious reasons, applications made within Canada have shorter waiting times than those made abroad.
Another consideration is the type of visa. After biometrics are given, the average waiting time for a temporary visa is about 2 weeks for many people. Within this 2-week period, you may receive either a notification of approval or refusal.
In the case of a permanent residence visa, the waiting time could be longer. Though it is not the same for all applicants, the processing time could take 3 months after biometrics.
Due to the current COVID-19 situation, the visa offices of the Canadian government are unable to process applications normally. For this reason, applicants may not be able to calculate their waiting times on the main site.
Your fingerprints and photograph are part of your visa application to Canada.
Whether you plan on going there as a temporary or permanent resident, or tourist, the submission of your biometrics is a part of the application process that, if done properly, can get you one step closer to your Canadian visa.