Canada Expands Biometric Program For All Study Permit Applications
As of December 31, Canada's biometric collection program has been expanded to Asia, Asia-Pacific and the Americas, and stakeholders in Canada have expressed concern for the potential impact that new biometric requirements could have.
According to the new regulations, all applicants for a visitor, student or work visa, or permanent residency, will be required to apply in person in a Visa Application Centre to submit their biometrics - fingerprints and a photo.
IRCC confirmed to The PIE News that all study permit applicants, including those from visa-exempt countries, need to give their biometrics when applying for the initial permit.
Speaking at the CBIE conference in late 2018, Assistant deputy minister for Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada, Harpreet S. Kochhar, said that this will "fundamentally change" the way that people apply for visas, especially in those countries such as China and India where applicants usually employ consultants.
Canada has expanded the worldwide network of visa application centres with plans to have "at least" 157 centres in 105 countries by November 2019.
But Sheridan College's international business development and partnerships manager, Gabriela Facchini, told The PIE News, "We believe [the new regulations] will affect our ability to get students from more remote cities and smaller communities."
Centres tend to be in the major cities, which creates problems for students living in other areas.
"Students in these areas will likely choose other destination for their study travel where biometrics is not required," suggested Facchini.
Kochhar noted that India saw applications increase by 194% over two years. According to IRCC figures, over 80,000 visas for Indian students became effective in the first 10 months of 2018, and the country has 10 VACs.
China, with over 77,000 students over the same period, has 12 centres - but IRCC said it is expanding capacity of existing centres in India, China and the Philippines.
Languages Canada's first source market, Brazil, has five centres, while Japan, the second, has only one; the two countries saw 8,000 and 6,000 student permits to Canada respectively become active between January and October 2018.
Both Languages Canada and Colleges and Institutes Canada have expressed concern for the added burden on students, especially those coming from regions with fewer or no application centres who will have to travel long distances to apply for visas.
Both associations are tracking the impact of the new regulations on their members, feeding back to IRCC.
"While we know that IRCC is doing its best to service all those interested in coming to Canada, the first impact is that of the unknown repercussions of the new biometrics requirements as it expands," Languages Canada's executive director Gonzalo Peralta told The PIE.
"At this point, our main concern is the uncertainty the new process is creating, and that is something unavoidable. Our concern, of course, is that the new measures may impact student enrolment at our member institutions."
CICan president and CEO, Denise Amyot, told The PIE that the overall impact of the first phase of the implementation on students and institutions has so far been minimal, but the association is keeping a close eye on developments.
"Since the beginning of this process, IRCC has welcomed feedback and has shown openness to creative solutions," Amyot acknowledged.
"As such, CICan continues to advocate for more accessible options - including the deployment of mobile Visa Application Centers - for students living in rural and remote areas."
Biometrics submission will only be required once every 10 years for those on a temporary visitor, study or work visa - which is less frequently than other countries, said Kocchar.