In two recent editions of TIAC Talk, we have informed industry about proposed changes to the visa application process by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to include biometric collection for certain travelers. Since the announcement of proposed changes in the Canada Gazette, TIAC has had several meetings with representatives from IRCC to discuss proposed roll-out of this new initiative, including timing and communications. TIAC also arranged for representatives from IRCC at Rendez-vous Canada in Halifax this week to inform the industry and international buyers about these changes.
TIAC has also filed comments with the Minister of IRCC, asking for a delay in implementation, for additional resources in visa applications centers as well as sufficient time to communicate with all stakeholders and ensure potential visitors to Canada are well informed of the new procedure. Our recommendations are outlined in more detail further below.
TIAC has long supported and advocated for the use of technology as a means of streamlining the visa application process and facilitating the movement of people across borders. The implementation of biometric collection has potential to not only strengthen the safety and security of our borders, but also speed up the verification and evaluation of visitor visas, particularly for temporary resident tourist applicants over time. While we support this, implementation must include adequate resources and robust communications to avoid hampering Canada’s ability to remain competitive and welcome an increasing number of visitors.
That said, we believe the proposed timing does not allow enough time for consumers and tourism trade partners to be aware of the changes and allow them to plan accordingly. TIAC has urged the Government of Canada to implement the following solutions:
- Amend implementation dates to ensure that the collection of biometrics begin first with only those seeking permanent residency and work visas before including temporary resident and student visa applicants. This would allow greater time to adapt to this new process, work out any unforeseen issues and minimize any negative impacts on visitation to Canada;
- Postpone all implementation for biometric collection on temporary resident and study permit applicants by 12 months;
- Ensure adequate and/or additional Visa Application Centres are present in busy markets based on historical visitor data and projections;
- Increase Visa Application Centres staffing in each and every market where biometrics will be collected to meet visitor demands and set up new “Canada booths” at existing Migration 5 partner locations;
- Develop a network of alternative collection points with trusted partners to collect biometric data;
- Conduct a thorough market review to ensure there are enough collection locations in the major markets to meet demand and extra complications to provide this data;
- Develop and execute advertising campaigns in major tourism markets as well as those with more than 1,000 students to raise awareness of the new requirements and provide time for students and families to plan accordingly.
TIAC will continue to monitor developments on this initiative. In the meantime please visit Canada.ca/biometrics for more information.