Biometrics to Become Mandatory for all Visaholders

Posted by admin on Dec 3rd, 2009

Thursday, 3 December 2009, Migration Watch

By 2011, international students intending to study in Canada will be expected to provide biometric-fingerprints and photos along with their application. This new plan will require digital fingerprints at the application period rather than at the entry stage. Although the new biometrics plan isn’t expected to be fully enforced until 2013, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) thinks that it will certainly help reduce identity theft and increase the safety and security of Canadians.

In addition to students, fingerprints and photos taken in person will be mandatory for foreigners applying for temporary resident visas or work permits.

Even though this new system is seen as a progressive step forward, many critics are anticipating a decrease in student applications to Canada.

Cen Huang, Assistant Vice-President International of the University of Alberta is concerned that biometrics might “delay the process,” making it more difficult for some to get to a consulate and quite possible, make potential students not feel welcomed.

Quite the contrary according to CIC, who have assessed results of other countries engaged in the same practice and noted that no significant decrease in enrolment has been found.

France and the U.S. currently require digital fingerprints as part of the application process while the U.K. plans to have its system in place by 2011. In Japan, digital fingerprints are mandatory at the point of entry for tourists but not during the application process.

Even though biometrics isn’t being implemented in the U.K. until 2011, students are already being asked to provide their fingerprints and photographs to the Home Office. This information will then be crossed referenced with existing files and stored on their personal file as well as on the electronic chip on their identity cards.

On a related matter Canada has signed an agreement with the U.S. that previously included U.K. and Australia to share biometric information on asylum seekers.

Given the threat of terrorists and criminals crossing the Canadian – U.S. border, biometrics is seen as a preventative measure to combating asylum fraud and identity theft.

Despite the advantage of this agreement, Canada’s privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart is concerned that personal information gathered through biometrics will be used for secondary purposes.

However, Immigration Minister, Jason Kenny, contends that the sharing of biometric data will allow the government to identify individuals who “try to hide their past when trying to enter Canada”. More importantly, the agreement allows countries to check each other’s fingerprint databases for nationality, identity, travel, criminal and immigration history.

Even though privacy and civil rights are a concern, the four partners maintain that “no central database of fingerprints will be created,” thereby not allowing “unfettered access to personal information.”

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