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Canadian Authorities Prepare for Biometric Border Screening Expansion

Canadian immigration authorities are preparing for an administrative challenge as the country expands its biometric screening program, announcing that they will open new registration centers to accommodate heightened demand.

The expansion is set to begin on July 31st, when visitors from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa will be required to provide biometric data – in the form of fingerprints and a photo – in order to visit the country. In preparation for that change, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has announced that it will open a number of new Visa Application Centres (VACs). In September, there will be new locations in Kigali, Stockholm, and Tel Aviv, with additional VACs to open in Athens, Berlin, Lyon, and Vienna in early November. Cape Town and Madagascar’s Antananarivo will also get new VACs in December.

Additionally, starting July 31st, Canadian embassies in Stockholm, Athens, Berlin, and Vienna, and a special office in Lyon, will also temporarily collect the biometrics of visa applicants. And the IRCC says more VACs will open in 2019, with the total coming to at least 157 by that November.

While Canada’s expansion of its biometric screening program – which currently only applies to refugees and individuals from select ‘high risk’ countries of origin – reflects a broader global trend in border security, the government’s efforts to accommodate demand from visa applicants may be be seen as a sign of the persistence of a diverse country’s welcoming ethos. Or a desire to collect the associated biometric application fees, which come to $85 per person; in any case, the authorities are trying hard not to discourage applicants with their new regulations.