Biometric Requirements for Canadian Visa Applications

Biometrics

In 2019, Canada expanded its biometric requirements for visa applications. This means that international students who apply 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 below.

What Are Biometrics?

Biometrics are body measurements and calculations related to human characteristics. For a Canadian student visa, the biometrics you’ll be asked for include electronic fingerprints and a digital photo

Canadian visa officers can use biometrics to confirm your identity. This makes it more difficult for someone to forge your identity, and makes resolving errors easier. After you give your biometrics, they’ll 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.

Who Needs to Give Biometrics?

Wondering if you need to include biometrics with your student visa application? The Canadian government has a short questionnaire to tell you if you need to submit biometrics

Generally, you must provide biometrics if you’re applying for:

  • A visitor visa
  • A work or study permit (excluding United States nationals)
  • 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. Citizenship applicants, existing permanent residents, children under the age of 14, and applicants over the age of 79 don’t need to give biometrics. 

Due to COVID-19, there’s also a temporary measure in place where students already in Canada may not have to supply biometrics. This measure applies if you are BOTH in Canada and: 

  • Applying to extend your stay as a student or 
  • Applying to restore your status as a student

How Long are Biometrics Good For?

Did you give biometrics in the last 10 years for a visitor visa, work permit, or study permit? If you did, 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, use the Government of Canada’s Check Status tool.

How to Submit Your Biometric Requirements

First, pay the biometrics fee when you submit your visa application. It costs C$85 for an individual applicant, or a maximum total fee of C$170 for families applying together. Once you’ve paid the fee, you’ll get an instruction letter, which allows you to give your biometrics in person.

Once you receive your instruction letter, make an appointment to give your biometric requirements at a collection service point. You must bring both your valid passport and your biometric instruction letter to your appointment. Note that due to high demand for appointments in Europe, some applicants’ deadlines may be extended. Your visa application won’t be processed until you submit your fingerprints and photo.

Photo and Fingerprint Tips

  1. Here are some tips to follow when taking photos or giving fingerprints:

    • 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 may wear religious headgear as long as your whole face is visible.
    • Don’t wear white or light clothing, including headgear. Bright colours are best.
    • Don’t wear henna on your hands.
    • Make sure any injuries, cuts, or cracks on your fingertips have healed before giving your fingerprints. If fingerprints don’t capture well, you may need to make a second appointment.

Processing Times

  1. How fast you get your instruction letter depends on how you apply and when you pay your biometrics fee. Find more information on the Government of Canada’s biometrics page.

  1. Important: For study permit applicants, the time it takes you to give your biometrics isn’t included in the overall application processing time. Visa officials won’t start processing your application until they receive your fingerprints and photo.

Strategies for Reducing Application Timelines

  1. Here’s how to avoid application delays:

    • 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.
    • 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.
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