Canada is to start requiring citizens of certain countries to provide immigration officials with biometric details when applying for visas. The nationals of 29 countries and one territory will soon need to provide their biometrics to visit, study or work, under regulations announced by Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.
‘Biometrics has proven to be one of the most effective ways to identify individuals entering the country. By providing immigration officials with greater certainty, biometrics will facilitate legitimate travel to Canada,’ he said.
Starting in 2013, people from the countries concerned who apply for a visitor visa, study permit or work permit will be required to provide their fingerprints and photograph at the time of application. The countries in question are Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Yemen.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents will not have to submit biometrics to enter the country. It was also confirmed that minors under the age of 14, the elderly over the age of 79, and diplomats travelling on official business and their family members will also be exempt. Once an individual arrives in Canada, their biometric data will be checked to ensure that the individual who was approved to travel is in fact the same person who is entering Canada.
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Kenney pointed out that the use of biometrics as an identity management tool will bring Canada in line with many other countries that are now using, or preparing to use, biometrics in immigration and border management. These countries include the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, countries in the European Union Schengen Zone, Japan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia.
He said that many nationals from the selected countries and one territory will already be familiar with the requirement. In addition, the governments of 20 of the 29 countries already collect biometrics from their citizens for the issuance of documents, such as identity cards and passports, or they plan to do so. ‘Biometrics will strengthen and modernize Canada’s immigration system. Our doors are open to legitimate travellers and, through the use of biometrics, we will also be able to protect the safety and security of Canadians,’ explained Kenney.
He added that Citizenship and Immigration Canada, along with its partners, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, will continue to work closely with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to ensure adequate privacy protection measures for an applicant’s personal information. Applicants’ privacy will be protected in accordance with Canada’s Privacy Act which will put the fears of many people to rest.