What are Biometrics and Do I need to Provide Them? (Updated)

Biometrics are the use of fingerprints and photographs to confirm identity and admissibility. Beginning in July 2018, IRCC expanded their collection of biometrics to include most visitor visa, study permit, work permit, and permanent residence applicants between the ages of 14 and 79. There is an $85 individual or $170 family biometric collection fee that can be paid at the time of application or online in combination with regular application fees. 

Visa exempt foreign nationals with an eTA who are coming to visit Canada as a tourist (applying for visitor status (personal or business) do not need to provide biometrics. 

U.S. Nationals will only need to provide biometrics when applying for permanent residence. 

Most applicants will provide biometrics in advance of their travel to Canada. Upon collection, biometrics will be used to verify an applicant’s identity and will then be transmitted to the RCMP for storage and searching against fingerprint records of known offenders, past refugee claimants, persons who were previously deported and previous immigration applicants. Fingerprints will also be automatically checked against the United States immigration fingerprints repository. 

Applicants who have applied online, by mail, or at an overseas Visa Application Center (VACs) require a letter from IRCC requesting that they complete biometrics in order to book their biometric appointment. This letter also serves as the receipt confirming that the biometric fees have been paid and must be brought with the applicant to their biometric appointment. 

Biometrics can be done at one of the VACs worldwide, Application Support Centers (ASCs) in the United States and its territories, or, as of December 3, 2019, at designated Service Canada Offices: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/contact-ircc/offices/find-visa-application-centre.html 

Depending on their port of arrival, Visa exempt foreign nationals who are applying for a work permit may have the option of providing their biometrics at the port of entry upon arrival. Please note that the service standard to obtain biometrics at the airport is anticipated to be 2 hours. Travel should be planned accordingly. 

If fingerprint collection is not feasible such as for reasons owing to age or degradation, there may be the possibility for an exemption and for the applicant to obtain a Temporary Resident Permit. 


Biometrics will be valid for a period of 10 years and will only need to be provided one time every 10 years. Applicants would need to have valid biometrics for the duration of their proposed stay in Canada. If an applicant’s visa will be limited by their biometric expiry date, they can voluntarily provide new biometrics early. 

Applicants who previously provided biometrics for temporary residence are required to provide new biometrics in support of an application for permanent residence. Applicants’ whose application for permanent residence is refused also need to provide new biometrics in support of a new application for permanent residence. Applicants who have provided biometrics in support of permanent residence, asylum claim, or oversees refugee resettlement application are not required to provide new biometrics in support of subsequent applications for temporary residence while they are awaiting a decision on their permanent residence application or refugee claim.


There will be a biometric collection fee of $85. However, a maximum fee of $170 would apply if an applicant and their family members make their applications or requests at the same time. Furthermore, a maximum fee of $255 would apply for three or more persons who form part of the same group of performing artists, or that group’s staff, when applying for a work permit at the same time.

In cases where clients are exempt from the recovery fee for the cost of the application, they may also be exempt from the fee for biometrics collection. 

Biometric Exemptions 

The following persons will not be required to provide their biometric information: 

  • Applicants under the age of 14 or over the age of 79
  • Nationals of the United States who apply for a work or study permit, or who make a request for a temporary resident permit;
  • Foreign nationals seeking to enter or remain in Canada as a visitor and who are exempt from the requirement of a visa (i.e. ETA visitors);
  • A holder of a valid United States entry visa who is destined to or returning from that country, who is seeking to enter Canada for a period of less than 48 hours and who is travelling by transporter’s vehicle to a destination other than Canada, or is transiting through or stopping over in Canada for refuelling or for the continuation of their journey in another transporter’s vehicle (existing exemption under the TRBP); 
  • A person who makes an application for a study permit or a work permit and is a person in Canada who has made a claim for refugee protection that has not yet been determined by the refugee protection division, a person in Canada on whom refugee protection has been conferred, or a person who is a member of the convention refugees abroad class or a member of a humanitarian-protected persons abroad class (existing exemption under the Temporary Residence Biometric Project (TRBP);
  • Persons who are a head of state or government applying for or requesting a temporary resident visa, status or permit; and
  • Persons who are seeking to enter Canada in the course of official duties as a properly accredited diplomat, consular officer, representative or official of a country other than Canada, of the United Nations or any of its agencies or of any intergovernmental organization of which Canada is a member, or is a family member of one of them (existing exemption under the Temporary Residence Biometric Project TRBP).

More information on the IRCC Biometric Requirements can be found here: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/campaigns/biometrics.html 

The lawyers of Capelle Kane are well versed in the latest changes to the Canadian immigration programs. Please contact us for a consultation if you wish to discuss your eligibility or to obtain more information about moving to Canada.