January 10, 2018

What Does Dual Citizenship and Biometrics Have to Do With One Another?

Posted by Michelle Boeriu - Bellissimo Law Group PC

Q: I am a dual citizen of Jamaica and St. Kitts and Nevis. I would like to apply for a visitor visa to Canada and I am not sure which passport or citizenship to apply under? Can you help me?

A: Commencing in January 2013, Citizenship and Immigration Canada introduced new legislation, requiring biometric information (fingerprints and photographs) from foreign national applicants of 29 countries including Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Yemen who want to enter Canada as temporary residents (visitors, students, workers). Canada is not alone introducing this requirement. Other countries that use biometrics for border security or immigration control include the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia.  The United States Homeland Security also has biometric registration.

The intention of biometrics is to reduce fraud.  The Government of Canada website reads:

Canadian visa officers use biometrics to confirm your identity. Biometrics also helps to:

  • make it more difficult for someone to forge, steal or use your identity,
  • resolve problems or errors that may happen if your name, date of birth and/or place of birth are similar to those of someone else, and
  • confirm your identity the next time you apply, so it is easier for you to re-enter Canada.

How does it work?

An applicant must attend in person, and officers will verify identity, so that no one else could impersonate that same applicant in future applications. There are Visa Application Centres (VAC) or other Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada offices outside of Canada that can assist applicants with this procedure. Of note is that an applicant may submit the biometrics after the submission of their application.  Once an applicant obtains a multiple entry visa for example, biometrics is not required for each entry unless an applicant wants to change status from visitor to student or worker.

Privacy issues have been raised as a concern and the list as potentially discriminatory.  Media reports at the time of introduction highlighted the justification for the list:

The list of countries was developed by the CIC after working in 2011 with other governmental agencies such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. CIC also worked with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Canada Border Services Agency, among others.

The Gazette explained the countries were selected “following a systematic assessment of immigration patterns including volumes or rates of TRV refusals, removal orders, refugee claims, and nationals arriving without proper documentation, attempting to travel to Canada without proper documentation or under a false identity.”

There are however exemptions to the groups of individuals required to submit an application. Foreign nationals under the age of 14 or over the age of 80 will not be required to submit biometrics. Additionally, those travelling on diplomatic missions or representatives of foreign governments, the United Nations, or intergovernmental agencies involving Canada will be exempt. Foreign nationals will also be exempt if transiting through Canada for less than 48 hours and originating from the United States.

For your purposes as this lengthens the period of time for processing your application, consideration should be given to the list and in your case only Jamaica is on the list.  It is always recommended  an applicant consult an immigration lawyer or regulated consultant before taking any steps on your application.

Good luck!

For more information, click here and here.