BEGINNING September 04 2013, Jamaicans travelling to Canada for visits, work or study will be required to provide their biometrics under new regulations enforced by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).
According to the Canadian High Commission in Kingston, Jamaicans will be required to give fingerprints and photographic data when whey apply for visas and permits.
"This new requirement will not only help protect the safety and security of Canadians while helping to facilitate legitimate travel, it will also protect prospective visitors by making it more difficult for others to forge, steal or use an applicant's identity to gain access to Canada. In the long run, the use of this information will make entry to Canada easier by providing a reliable tool to readily confirm a person's identity," the high commission said in a press release, yesterday.
"Applicants under the age of 14 and over the age of 79 will not have to give their biometric information. Diplomats and government officials travelling on official business are also exempt," the release added.
Other countries that are affected by the new regulations include Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Yemen.
The high commission said border services officers at Canada's port of entries "will use the biometric information to confirm" the identity of individuals. 'The traveller may also have to give their fingerprints as part of the process to enter Canada," the high commission said.
Applicants are required to go "in person" to a visa application centre to submit their applications and give their fingerprints and have their photograph taken.
"There is a biometric fee of CAD$85, which includes applications services at the VAC. Family members who apply together for a visitor visa will pay a maximum fee of CAD$170," the high commission explained.
The use of biometrics as an identity management tool will bring Canada in line with many other countries that are now using, or preparing to use, biometrics in immigration and border management. These include the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, countries in the European Union Schengen Zone, Japan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia.
In making the initial announcement last year, Canada's Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney emphasised that the biometrics "will facilitate legitimate travel to Canada".
He explained then that once an individual arrives in Canada, their biometric data will be checked to ensure that the individual who was approved to travel is in fact the same person who is entering Canada.
"Biometrics will strengthen and modernise Canada's immigration system," said Minister Kenney. "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.
Last year, Canada issued a total of 22,217 visas, permits and extensions to Jamaicans. This was in addition to the 2,135 permanent resident visas that were "granted to applicants with Jamaica listed as source country", according to the high commission.
The high commission disclosed that the majority of the 22,217 applications were processed in Kingston and included visitors, students and workers destined to Canada.
"It includes around 6,500 Jamaican applicants who participated under the Canada Caribbean Seasonal Farm Worker Programme," the high commission said.
Apart from Jamaica, the high commission in Kingston serves citizens of the Turks & Caicos Islands, Cayman Islands and The Bahamas.
Only recently, two visa application centres were opened in Kingston and Montego Bay to handle the increased applications.