Canada to start fingerprint residency applicants

Published 9 June 2009

The Canadian federal government plans to start fingerprinting applicants for temporary residency permits

The Canadian federal government plans to start fingerprinting applicants for temporary resident permits as early as 2011, Edmonton Sun Media has learned.

By 2013 all prospective temporary residents, including those who apply for work permits or study permits, will have to submit fingerprints and photographs.

In a request for information issued to potential contractors, the immigration department says it wants to collect biometric information because the rise of identity fraud means traditional ways of identifying people are no longer good enough. “Current screening tools, which rely on biographic information, are no longer accurate, as documents can be easily stolen or altered, resulting in multiple or false identities,” officials wrote. “In contrast, biometrics can be used to uniquely identify and reliably verify an individual.”

According to the document, a 2006 pilot project was successful. The 2008 budget provided $26 million over two years for the initiative. Treasury Board gave preliminary approval in March and “effective project approval” is expected by March 2010. By late 2011 the department plans to require fingerprints from 15 percent of prospective temporary residents. That will increase to 50% in 2012 and 100 percent in 2013 — about 1.6 million people.

While they are starting with fingerprints, the department is thinking of adding facial recognition in the future. Biometric data collected will be stored at a central hub in Canada. Fingerprints will be checked by the RCMP. Biometrics are popular with security officials and with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who says Canada trails Australia and the United Kingdom in using the technology.