Canada and the United States are to start sharing fingerprints, names, photos, birthdays and nationalities of people applying for visas from next year.  The name, date of birth and gender details will be shared automatically in 2013 and by 2014 other biometric details such as photos and fingerprints will be added to the system.

This is a result of a new Sharing Agreement signed by US Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson and the Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney. It enables Canada and the United States to share information from third country nationals who apply for a visa or permit to travel to either country.

It means that when an individual applies for a US visa or citizenship, officials in Washington will send an automated request to Canadian officials to identify immigration information such as previously failed refugee claimants, individuals trying to enter under fraudulent names and deportees. The same process would apply in reverse when a third country national applies for Canadian visas or claims asylum.  However, no information will be shared on American or Canadian citizens or permanent residents. ‘Any information shared on travellers and asylum seekers will be handled responsibly and, as with other information sharing agreements, exchanged in accordance with relevant US and Canadian laws,’ said a spokesman for Canadian immigration.

Meanwhile, Canadian Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturism minister Jason Kenny said that the Canada Wizard, an online resource that helps people determine if they are eligible to live, work or study in Canada, has now been visited by well over two million users since its launch in August 2011. ‘We want the world’s best and brightest to come to Canada and to help grow our economy. The award winning Wizard is one way that we are creating a more responsive, user friendly and efficient immigration process that benefits applicants, immigrants and Canadians alike,’ he explained.
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‘The Wizard saves prospective immigrants to Canada time and money by helping them determine if they are able to immigrate to Canada, and the most appropriate immigration program for them,’ he added. The Come to Canada Wizard gives users a series of questions to determine which federal immigration option best suits their specific circumstances. It then leads users through the application steps and provides instructions and forms.

There are more than 5,000 visits to the Come to Canada Wizard every day and close to 93% of users who have offered feedback say that the Wizard is easy to use and close to 90% say they would recommend it to someone they know.