Lawyers say Canadian biometrics collection for travelers could cause delays and privacy issues

Canadian lawyers are warning that the country’s new biometric collection requirements for travelers could create delays and that the sharing of data with four partner countries raises privacy concerns, the Law Times reports.

Several lawyers point out that when the Canadian government rolled out its electronic travel authorization (eTA) program in 2015 and 2016 there were cancelled deadlines and other problems, and worry the same could happen with the new requirements, which take effect for travelers from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa on July 31.

“If you’re used to simply showing up in Canada and applying for a work permit, and if biometrics screening is down, you’re sitting there until biometrics go back up,” says Brian Dingle, a partner and national business immigration focus group leader at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP. “It’s been framed in a friendly way that it’s going to make legitimate travel easier while protecting national security, but it’s a big change from what we’re used to.”

Dingle fears his clients in the film and television industry could experience delays because of the changes.

Green and Spiegel LLP partner Shoshana Green points out that even with new Visa Application Centers (VACs), they are not easily accessible to everyone.

“There are going to be lots of people in lots of countries without VACs in their location,” says Green. “It’s not so simple now to come to Canada. That will likely impact business visitors as well as tourists meaningfully much more than it has in the past.”

Kris Klein, a partner at nNovation LLP concedes that the privacy implications of biometrics collection have been weighed by the government, but expresses concern that the Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) has not been made available to the public.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has consulted with Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, and received PIAs for multiple parts of the biometric project, and says it expects an update to them for the collection of information from visa and permanent residency applications, according to the Times.

“We have asked that IRCC regularly evaluate and demonstrate the effectiveness of sharing immigration information in an automated and systematic fashion, as opposed to on a case-by-case basis, that the data elements to be shared are reviewed for necessity and that visa applicants are clearly notified that information, including fingerprints, will be exchanged with international partners,” OPC spokesperson Tobi Cohen told the Times.

The changes to Canada’s process for visa and residency applicants were originally announced in April.

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