|Haiti (Photo credit: elycefeliz)|
Starting in 2013, visitors to Canada from 29 countries and a territory must pay an extra $85 for Ottawa to collect their fingerprints and photos when they apply for visas.
The countries are mostly from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, but the biometrics requirement will also extend to Haiti, Jamaica and Colombia.
It is yet another measure Ottawa is imposing under the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act passed in June to tighten border entry into Canada.
Earlier this week, Ottawa exercised its powers from the same law to designate five carloads of Romanian refugee claimants crossing the Quebec border as “irregular arrivals,” stripping them of the basic rights afforded to other asylum seekers.
“Biometrics will strengthen and modernize Canada’s immigration system,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Friday. “Our doors are open to legitimate travellers and, through the use of biometrics, we will also be able to protect the safety and security of Canadians.”
According to the Canada Gazette, the countries were selected for their volumes or rates of visa refusals, removal orders, refugee claims, and nationals arriving without proper documentation or attempting to travel under false identities, as well as their relevance to Canada’s foreign and trade policy objectives.
About 20 per cent of the 300,000 visa-required applicants — visitors, students or temporary foreign workers — would have to submit their biometric information in the first year. Children, the elderly and diplomats are exempt.
The applicants must present themselves at a biometric collection service point, a third-party visa application centre contracted by Ottawa, to provide “all available fingerprints and have a photograph taken.”
Their fingerprints would be sent to the RCMP for storage and checked against the fingerprint records of refugee claimants, previous deportees, persons with Canadian criminal records and previous temporary resident applicants before a visa decision is made. Border guards would then check the biometrics information again at the border.
The $85 fee is expected to recover 50 per cent of the operational cost. A cost-benefit analysis estimated the plan would save the federal and provincial governments $106 million over 10 years from “reduced negative refugee claims, fewer removals and detentions.”
Those affected by the new rules include: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burma, 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.