The start of the school year is approaching, and your institution may be planning to welcome foreign students, or perhaps you have a business project that entails hiring foreign temporary workers. In either case, you should know that the Government of Canada is expanding the requirement for foreign nationals to provide biometrics (fingerprints and a photograph) in order to enter Canada, effective July 31, 2018.

Expansion of the requirement to provide biometrics

This already existing requirement, which currently applies to only 30 countries, will be expanded to several more, in successive phases beginning respectively on July 31 and December 31, 2018. The expansion will effectively complicate the process of entering Canada for certain categories of persons, including temporary workers and students.

Here is some information to help you better understand this requirement and the steps to be taken to simplify the arrival of your workers or students. 

Why does Canada collect biometrics? 

The Government of Canada uses biometrics because it is recognized as a reliable and accurate tool for establishing a person's identity. The process allows the government to effectively manage identity information, facilitates the processing of visa applications, and helps deter, detect and stop the entry of those who pose a risk to the health, safety and security of Canadians.

Who is affected by the biometrics expansion?

As of July 31, 2018, all foreign nationals from certain countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and as of December 31, 2018 all foreign nationals from certain countries in Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas, will have to provide biometrics in order to enter Canada.

To determine whether an individual is covered by this requirement, you must go the website of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and enter the individual's country of origin.

There are some exemptions: who is eligible?

There is a temporary exemption for applicants who are already in Canada. In cases where an individual currently in Canada applies for a visa, study or work permit, or permanent residence, he or she will not have to provide biometrics until the in-Canada fingerprinting and photo service is available.

There are also exemptions for other categories of persons, namely:

  • Canadian citizens, citizenship applicants (including passport applicants), and existing permanent residents;
  • Visa-exempt nationals coming to Canada as tourists who hold a valid Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)1;
  • Children under the age of 14 and applicants over the age of 79;
  • Heads of state, cabinet ministers and accredited diplomats of other countries and the United Nations, coming to Canada on official business;
  • Temporary resident applicants who have already provided biometrics in support of a permanent resident application that is still in progress.
  • U.S. visa holders transiting through Canada;
  • Refugee claimants or protected persons who have already provided biometrics and are applying for a study or work permit;

Where can biometrics be provided?

To provide biometrics, the applicant must go in person, after making an appointment, to the closest visa application centre (VAC), which may be in a country other than that where the applicant resides if the latter country does not offer this service or if the other country is closer geographically. There are currently 137 VACs where biometrics can be given in a total of 95 countries. Applicants in the United States can go to any of 135 Application Support Centers. In addition, the Government of Canada published a news release on June 29, 2018 to inform applicants that additional VACs will be opened in 2018 and 2019 to facilitate the collection of biometrics.

It should be noted that applicants for work or study permits who are entitled to apply at an official point of entry (i.e. at the border itself) may give their biometrics there without having to make an appointment beforehand.

Validity duration and cost

Once biometrics are entered into the National Repository, they are valid for ten years. An applicant thus only has to give biometrics once every ten years. The cost is CAD$85 for an individual applicant, CAD$170 for a family applying together at the same time, and CAD$255 for groups of three or more performing artists and their staff who apply for work permits at the same time.

Depending on the number of temporary workers you intend to bring to Canada, you should thus take into account the impact these costs will have on the economics of your project.

Final remarks

We recommend that you take a proactive approach and check with your foreign workers or students before they travel to Canada, to see if they are now required to provide their biometrics. If so, they must make an appointment at the nearest VAC to have their fingerprints and a photograph taken, so they can enter Canada without difficulty.

Because of the expansion of the requirement to provide biometrics, many foreign workers and students who previously only had to show their passport and visa when entering Canada will now have to provide their biometrics before arriving, or they may be denied entry.

If you would like further information or legal advice about the foregoing or any other matter, please contact one of our professionals, who will be pleased to provide you with any necessary support for your business projects.


1 It should be noted that foreigners with an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) do not have to provide biometrics if they are entering Canada as tourists.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.