BP101
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BP101: Studying in Canada

When Does IRCC Ask for Biometrics? Understanding the Process

Learn about biometrics, and when and how to provide them when studying in Canada
Written by: BorderPass Corp.
Last updated:  
April 2024

Looking to immigrate to Canada? Read on because we’ll provide everything you need to know about when Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) asks for your biometric information, and what you’ll need to do to satisfy their requirements.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What biometrics are
  • What exactly Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is
  • When IRCC will ask for biometrics
  • Who must provide IRCC with biometric information
  • A complete rundown of the biometric application process
  • What happens after you’ve submitted your biometrics
  • Frequently asked questions

Let’s get into it!

What are biometrics?

The Government of Canada may require you to submit your fingerprints and photo, which are called “biometrics.” This helps strengthen identity management and enhance safety and security in Canada.

Anyone looking to immigrate to Canada from other countries around the world (e.g. international students applying for a study permit, or an individual applying for permanent residence) may be required by IRCC to submit their biometrics.

Travelers, tourists, and those entering the country for business reasons may also be required to submit their biometrics. This is especially true if it’s your first time visiting Canada. The only exception is for tourists from visa-exempt countries.

How biometrics verification works

IRCC’s biometric systems securely measure and analyze your personal and individual characteristics in a couple of steps:

  • First: the enrollment of your biometric data into their database
  • Second: verification and identification are carried out.

The second step is done by comparing presented biometric data to the stored data in subsequent interactions (for instance, any time you enter or leave the country and present your travel document, or when you visit a different territory or locations around Canada).

Your biometrics will be measured and verified by both physical and behavioral characteristics. Your physical characteristics may include (but are not limited to this list):

  • Your fingerprint record
  • Facial recognition (as captured in a photograph and in person)
  • Your iris scan (again, in photos or scanned in person)
  • Your hand geometry
  • Your palm prints.

This categorization of characteristics is stored by IRCC, retrieved every time you have an interaction that requires your identity to be authenticated, and built upon over time for accuracy.

Privacy of your biometric information

Our findings show that several practices are in place to ensure the privacy of your confidential and unique biometric data. These include data encryption, anonymization, consent, and copious legal frameworks.

Individual privacy is paramount in the use of biometric information, especially for sensitive data such as a resident application, so multiple practices are combined to ensure your privacy is protected.

Purpose and benefits of biometrics in immigration

Our research has shown that the use of biometrics in immigration has become an extremely important data-driven way to inform and enforce security. Those applying to become residents must be carefully vetted to ensure that they are suitable and safe candidates for the country.

Some of the processes that are moderated using biometrics to reduce the likelihood of security breaches include:

  • Passport control
  • Visa processing
  • Asylum seeker or refugee processing.

What is Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)?

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is the Canadian government department responsible for managing immigration, refugee, and citizenship matters.

Any questions or queries you have around these subjects (e.g. if you need to update your biometrics) should be sent to IRCC directly and not through your visa application center so that they can best assist and help you.

Connection to the Express Entry system

The IRCC is responsible for overseeing the Express Entry program, through which skilled workers can submit immigration applications for special consideration.

There are three pathways to Express Entry that can be applied for:

  • Canadian Experience Class: this is the most direct method for international students, as students can take advantage of Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWP) to gain work experience
  • Federal Skilled Worker Program
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program

For each of these, you must ensure that you meet the work experience, education demands, and language minimums, as well as any other listed requirements. If eligible, you could have your application processed in around six months.

The importance of biometrics in the Canadian immigration process

IRCC mandates the collection of biometrics for all foreign nationals applying for temporary residence, permanent residence (PR), or refugee protection, for the purposes of identity management and security.

For these reasons, if your biometric information is demanded by IRCC, you should comply immediately.

When does IRCC ask for biometrics?

If you are a foreign national applying for temporary residence, permanent residence, or refugee protection (excluding U.S. nationals), at the point that you make your application, IRCC will notify you to submit your biometrics.

Ensuring that this is done promptly will mean that your application is able to be moved into the next stage of processing.

Who needs to give IRCC their biometrics?

If you’re applying for residency in Canada, you will need to submit your biometrics to IRCC. However, there are several categories within this, too, which you should pay close attention to.

Biometrics for permanent residence applicants

If you are applying for permanent residence, you’ll need to give IRCC your biometrics.

Biometrics for temporary residence applicants

If you are a temporary residence applicant, you’ll need to give IRCC your biometrics when you apply for:

  • A temporary resident visa or permit
  • An extension of authorization to remain in Canada as a temporary resident
  • A restoration of your temporary resident status
  • A work permit or renewal of a work permit
  • A study permit or renewal of a study permit.

Exemptions to providing biometrics

While a standard immigration visa applicant is required by IRCC to provide their biometrics, there are multiple cases and situations where they may be exempt. These include:

  • If the applicant is aged under 14 years or over 79 years
  • If the applicant is a member of the Royal Family
  • If the applicant is a U.S. national
  • If the applicant is a Head of State, Diplomat, or Official
  • If the applicant is in transit to or from the U.S. while holding a valid non-immigrant U.S. visa
  • If the applicant is a visa-exempt foreign national and will only enter Canada as a visitor
  • If the applicant is applying for more than one application at the same time (biometrics will only need to be provided once)
  • If the applicant is applying for another temporary residence permit within 10 years of applying for their first or previous temporary residence permit
  • If the applicant is a permanent resident and applying for a new application or request
  • If the applicant is a member of visiting armed forces.

The biometrics application process

With exception to the above, you will need to provide biometrics when applying for a visitor visa, work permit, study permit or study permit extension, permanent residence, or refugee or asylum status.

Through our practical knowledge, the application process is quite simple, however. While parts of the application can be made online, you must give your biometrics in person at an authorized collection site.

How the biometric service works

The biometric service has several steps:

  1. Wait to receive your confirmation letter with further instructions
  2. Make an appointment with an authorized collection site
  3. Go in person to submit your biometrics’

Once your initial biometrics have been collected, further information will be compounded over time to help with identity verification (all information is verified by the stored data in the biometric system).

When to provide your biometrics

Once you have made an application to IRCC, you will be invited to provide your biometrics as part of processing. You can only provide your biometrics when invited to do so and after making an appointment at an authorized collection site.

Where to provide your biometrics

For security, safety, and accuracy reasons, you can only provide your biometrics at authorized collection sites.

In order to find your closest authorized collection site, consult the IRCC website.

How to submit your biometrics for visa application

To submit your biometrics for your application:

  • Find your closest authorized collection site and make an appointment
  • On the appointed day, go in person to the collection site to submit your biometrics

Note that you can only submit your biometrics in person and there is a 30-day window for you to do so. If for whatever reason you’re unable to submit your biometrics within this time frame, contact IRCC as there may be support in place to assist you.

After providing your biometrics to IRCC

Once you’ve provided your biometrics to IRCC, you’ll be one step closer to having your visa approved. Now, it’s a waiting game for the rest of your application which is processed by an individual officer.

Depending on the visa you’ve applied for and whether further information or clarification is required from you, this could take some time.

Be sure to read through the application requirements carefully before you apply, so that you can submit everything you need to IRCC in one go and hopefully speed up your processing time.

What’s the next step after biometrics for a Canada study permit?

Once biometrics have been provided for a study visa, your application will be able to be processed. If you meet the eligibility for the Student Direct Stream, it is likely your application will be processed within 20 days.

From here, you will either be approved or refused.

If you are approved, you will receive a letter of introduction to your port of entry, and either an eTA or a visitor visa. Once you have arrived in Canada, if you meet all the criteria for entry (this is instructed by your application requirements), you will be provided with your study visa.

If your application is refused, you will be sent a letter explaining why.

If refused, you can make a reconsideration request — a formal request that IRCC reassess your application. Bear in mind that a reconsideration request is not a guarantee that their initial decision will be overturned, as reconsiderations are made at the IRCC officer’s discretion.

Interested in more about the study visa application process? Be sure to read all about studying in Canada so that you can be fully prepared!

How long are biometrics valid?

Once you have submitted your initial biometrics, the data is valid for 10 years. After this time, your data is updated by re-submitting your biometrics to IRCC.

Processing times and delays

Once requested, you have a maximum of 30 days to submit your biometrics. However, our research has shown that it’s strongly recommended that applicants provide biometrics as promptly as possible to both speed up your application and avoid a backlog in the system.

While processing times vary for each application, your application may be delayed if:

  • An interview is required
  • Your medical or security screening is delayed
  • You are unable to communicate via email
  • You are slow to respond to information requests
  • There is a high volume of applicants

Be sure to avoid any delays on your end by:

  • Reading and following your immigration application guide carefully
  • Fully filling out, double-checking, signing, and dating your application
  • Providing your biometrics quickly
  • Paying your fee promptly (and correctly) when you make your application.

Key takeaways

If you are planning on immigrating to Canada to live, work, or study, you will be required to submit your biometrics to IRCC — the government department that deals with immigration, refugees, and citizenship. If you are planning on visiting Canada as a tourist, you may still be required to submit your biometrics, especially if it’s your first time in the country.

There are a number of exemptions who are not required to submit biometrics, including if you are a visitor from a visa-exempt country, or if you are a U.S. national. A full list of exempted individuals is published on the IRCC website.

Your biometrics are a collection of physical characteristics, such as fingerprints and faces, in order to verify and identify individuals. They are a vital component of IRCC’s efforts to strengthen identity management and enhance security in Canada.

When you have made your visa application, if your biometrics are required, you will be notified by IRCC with a request letter. Upon receiving this, you will have 30 days submit your biometrics in person at an authorized collection site.

The sooner you are able to submit your biometrics, the faster your application can be processed. Be sure to pay attention to your application requirements to avoid unnecessary delays in processing.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Why does IRCC ask for biometrics?

Biometrics are used to confirm individuals’ identities. They also make it much more difficult for your identity to be forged or stolen.

How long does it take to get PR approval after biometrics?

After providing biometrics, it could take anywhere between four to eight weeks to receive PR approval.

How do I know if I need to give biometrics?

If IRCC requires you to provide biometrics as part of your application, you will receive a request letter from them. From here, you will have 30 days to submit your biometrics in person at an authorized collection point.

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