Ottawa expands program to collect fingerprints, photos from foreign nationals coming to Canada | CBC News

Planned for some time:

Canada is expanding a program to collect biometric data — including fingerprints — from foreign nationals coming to this country, while experts are warning of the potential for heightened risks to privacy.

The expanded biometrics program will be rolled out over two years, beginning next month, with new requirements to collect biometric data from people from Europe, the Middle East and Africa coming to Canada to visit, work, study or immigrate. Previously, the program was limited to visa applicants from countries believed to pose a higher risk of immigration document fraud, as well as refugee claimants and asylum seekers.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has said the program’s expansion from 30 to about 150 countries will strengthen border and immigration systems with the ability to quickly and accurately establish a traveller’s identity.

Brenda McPhail, director of privacy, technology and surveillance at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said greater use of biometrics — physiological identifiers like fingerprints — is probably inevitable, given global trends. She said she sees both benefits and risks.

“Every time you expand a program like this, you add to the level of risk and complication and increase the chances that something could go wrong,” she said.

Due to the highly sensitive nature of biometric information, McPhail said, data collected by Canada likely would be targeted by “malicious actors.” She said the program’s collection process is risky because the data is collected on foreign soil on Canada’s behalf by private sector firms contracted to do the work — making it extremely important that those third-party employees are screened and their activities are tracked and audited.

Biometric data from the expanded collection program will be shared with Canada’s international intelligence partners: the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand. McPhail said that degree of information-sharing introduces its own risks.

“The more counties you start sharing information with, the more dependent we are (on) other people to also have good processes in place to make sure that the information they’re sharing with us is accurate, that they’re storing it properly and transmitting it safely,” she said.

Hussen’s spokesman Mathieu Genest said detailed privacy risk mitigation measures have been outlined in a series of privacy assessments that were shared with the Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien, and in turn informed the department’s policy development.

“The government of Canada takes its privacy obligations very seriously, and safeguards have been built into policies, procedures and technical systems,” Genest wrote in an email.

RCMP to retain data

The privacy commissioner’s office said the act of collecting fingerprints from visitors is justified by the need to verify admissibility to Canada, and cited the fact that data will be retained for 10 years and destroyed when a permanent resident is granted citizenship as a “positive feature.” The office also said the RCMP will retain the data under strict safeguards.

The commissioner’s office has received various privacy impact assessments on biometric data collection from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in the past, and has advised the government on the need for strict protocols on information sharing and safeguards protecting the fingerprints, photos and documents collected by private sector employees at visa centres abroad.

Applicants from Europe, Middle East and Africa will be required to pay an $85 fee to capture their biometric data beginning July 31. (IRCC)
“We are awaiting an update from IRCC and may have additional comments to make down the road,” said privacy commissioner spokeswoman Valerie Lawton.

​Applicants from Europe, Middle East and Africa will be required to pay the $85 fee to capture their biometric data beginning July 31, 2018. As of Dec. 31, applicants from Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas will be required to do the same.

Those exempt include:

  • Canadian citizens, citizenship applicants (including passport applicants), or existing permanent residents;
  • visa-exempt nationals coming to Canada as tourists who hold a valid Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA);
  • American citizens on a work or study permit;
  • children under 14 and seniors over 79;
  • heads of state or government, cabinet ministers and accredited diplomats on official business;
  • U.S. visa holders transiting through Canada.

Ann Cavoukian, a privacy expert at Ryerson University and the former privacy commissioner for Ontario, said that when used properly and stored securely, biometrics data can protect privacy because using it leaves authorities less dependent on documents that are vulnerable to theft.

There is a potential for privacy breaches, though, when data is used without strict protocols or is shared too broadly, she said.

Cavoukian said expanded collection should not proceed until an updated privacy impact assessment is submitted and adequate time given to make any changes recommended by the privacy commissioner.

“This is a major, major development. We rely on his independent oversight and comments and his independent assessment of this,” she said.

via Ottawa expands program to collect fingerprints, photos from foreign nationals coming to Canada | CBC News

Canadian immigration: Why are Europeans renouncing immigrant status?

I find this concern overblown. If people are renouncing their Permanent Resident status, it suggests that they are likely not here on a permanent basis. Hard to imagine that European-origin permanent residents would renounce their PR status if only travelling back and forth for annual visits or occasional business travel.

The eTA requirement is not onerous:

Foreign nationals from visa-exempt countries who are permanent residents of Canada (who used to be called landed immigrants) are being confronted with the new step before they can get approval to board flights to this country, but also at port-of-entry airports such as Vancouver International.

The trouble arises for these travellers when they arrive at an airport without their plastic permanent resident card — or don’t realize their permanent residence status has expired for certain reasons, including not spending enough time in Canada.

They are thrust into a state of limbo.

When such travellers try to get an eTA — and airport officials then discover they are permanent residents of Canada, but their documentation is inadequate — they are not granted an eTA to board a plane to Canada or, if they somehow make it to Canada, they are not allowed through immigration checkpoints.

As a result, says Toronto immigration lawyer David Lesperance, customs and airline officials are advising such people the quickest way to be allowed to fly into Canada is to renounce their opportunity to immigrate.

As Lesperance puts it, airport officials are telling them: “Either you voluntarily relinquish your (permanent residence) status right here and right now, and we let you in as a visitor, or we deny you entry and fly you back home.”

Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland confirms European and anglophone clients who have had permanent resident status have been running into many difficulties at international airports because of the eTA.

The overall number of people from all countries who have renounced their Canadian immigrant status has gone up sharply since 2014, when Ottawa began making the process of renouncing easier.

The total volume of renunciations has jumped from just a handful a year to more than 30,000 in the past two-and-a-half years.

Of course, would-be immigrants from Europe, Asia or Africa renounce their attempt to gain citizenship for a variety of reasons. Some dislike Canada’s cold weather, some earn more money in their homeland and some are trying to avoid paying Canadian income taxes.

But the immigration lawyers say the biggest reason Germans, Australians, French, Danes, Dutch and Britons have recently renounced is the change Immigration Canada introduced last year and formalized on Nov. 10 — requiring all travellers from visa-exempt countries to apply online for an eTA.

More than 2,530 people from Britain have renounced their Canadian permanent resident status in the past year and a half, compared to just 305 in 2015, before the eTA was announced.[average number of new PRs 2006-15: 7,124]

The pace of Australians recently renouncing their PR status has jumped 17-fold — to 509 in the past year and a half compared to just 30 in 2015. [average number of new PRs 2006-15: 1,054]

More than 571 Germans have also renounced in the past year and a half, compared to 153 in 2015. [average number of new PRs 2006-15: 2,334]

So have 775 French citizens, contrasted with 117 in 2015. [average number of new PRs 2006-15: 4,902]

Most of the Europeans and anglophones renouncing their chance to become Canadian citizens are “relieved” to end their travel aggravations by forgoing their permanent resident status in Canada, Kurland said.

Many are deciding instead to travel to Canada as tourists, or by applying for increasingly popular 10-year visas.

Source: Canadian immigration: Why are Europeans renouncing immigrant status? | Vancouver Sun

Dual citizens given a break on new passport rules

Sensible response. But of course, some will still miss news about the extension, no matter how much communications:

In the wake of a public outcry, Ottawa has extended the grace period of its new travel requirement for Canadian dual citizens.

The federal government was to demand all air travellers who are citizens of Canada and another country be required to carry a Canadian passport as of Sept. 30.

However, many travellers complained they were blindsided by the new measures and would not be able to acquire a Canadian passport in time for their immediate travels.

On Tuesday, Immigration Minister John McCallum announced the implementation date would be postponed until Nov. 10.

“In consultation with airline partners, we’re taking further steps to minimize any travel disruption,” said McCallum. “We’re extending the leniency period and doing another major information blitz in Canada and abroad to encourage affected travellers to plan ahead and get the necessary travel documents before they book a flight to Canada.”

Currently, Canadians with dual citizenship can use the passport of the other country to enter Canada by air if they can provide proof of residency in Canada, such as a driver’s licence or a Canadian citizenship card.

Ottawa rolled out the electronic travel authorization, or eTA, system last year, requiring air passengers — including all applicants for study and work permits, as well as those from countries that currently do not require a visa to come to Canada — to submit their biographic, passport and other personal information through the immigration department website for prescreening or face being denied entry.

Travellers with both Canadian and U.S. citizenship, however, are allowed to return to Canada with their American passports.

Immigration officials said almost 2 million eTAs have been issued to travellers to Canada since August 2015.

Source: Dual citizens given a break on new passport rules | Toronto Star

Ottawa’s new air-travel rule catches dual citizens by surprise

While I have some sympathy for those taken by surprise if this change was not adequately communicated in advance, I have little for the substantive nature of some of the complaints mentioned in the article.

There were and are sound policy and program reasons for this requirement, linked to the eTA.

Tellingly, all those quoted come from dual citizens from the UK or Australia, although this situation would likely apply to most dual citizens from countries that Canada does not require a visa.

Dual citizens who come from developing countries, many of whom do not formally allow for dual citizenship and thus who have to travel back to their country of origin on that country’s passport, generally use their Canadian passport to return to Canada as airlines only accept passports as reliable proof of citizenship:

Canadian citizens with dual citizenships will soon be allowed to fly into the country only if they have a Canadian passport.

The policy will come into effect Sept. 30 as a final phase of Canada’s move to an electronic screening system to step up border security and boost exit control of travellers, including Canadians on government benefits.

The upcoming requirement has caught many by surprise calling the practice “discriminatory” against dual citizens and a money grab, and is expected to create havoc as travellers with dual Canadian citizenships may find out only at the last minute when trying to board on a flight.

“What is changing is that the Government of Canada is implementing a new electronic system to assist airlines in verifying that all travellers have the appropriate documents to travel to or transit through Canada by air,” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Lindsay Wemp told the Star.

“Air carriers are obligated by law to confirm that all persons seeking to travel to Canada carry both proof of citizenship and proof of identity. A valid Canadian passport satisfies these requirements for Canadian citizens, and is the only acceptable travel document for the purpose of air travel.”

Currently, Canadian citizens with dual citizenships can use the passport of the other country to enter Canada by air if they can provide proofs of residency in Canada, such as a driver’s licence and Canadian citizenship card.

According to the 2011 Census, at least 2.9 per cent of Canadians — 944,700 people — had multiple citizenships; the most frequently reported other citizenships were the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Poland.

Ottawa rolled out the electronic travel authorization, or eTA, system last year, requiring air passengers — including all applicants for study and work permits, as well as those from countries that currently do not require a visa to come to Canada — to submit their biographic, passport and other personal information through the immigration department website for prescreening or face being denied entry. American citizens are exempted.

 However, Canadian citizens will be ineligible for eTA of Sept. 30, because they will be expected to carry their Canadian passports which, by default, bar dual citizens from using the passport of the other country to return to Canada. What baffles several observers about the new rule is that it only applies to air passengers.

“This proposed policy change is discriminatory to dual citizens and for the life of me, I cannot see why it is necessary. It would appear to be a money grab with no benefit and huge inconvenience for any of us who live overseas,” said Craig Campbell, 60, who was born to a military family in Manitoba and is a dual Canadian-Australian citizen.

“There is time to fix this appalling discriminatory policy. I served the country of my birth as did my father, uncles, aunts and grandfather before me. This is simply a shameful way to treat one very small category of proud Canadians for no discernible benefit to the country.”

Calgary-born Carey Du Gray, 45, who has lived in the U.K. since 2009, said he only found out about the new requirement when he was trying to book travel two weeks ago to fly home in October.

“My daughters were born in the U.K., but they are Canadian citizens. They would not be able to travel to Canada using their British passports. What lunacy, eh?” asked Du Gray, a fundraising consultant based in London.

“What followed was a 48-hour scramble to get all of the documentation and photos together. The guidance on the (Canadian) website said they were taking up to 40 business days to process new passport applications on account of the flood of them that are coming in ahead of the policy change.”

Canadian expatriate Sandi Logan, who worked in the Australian immigration department, said the requirement on dual citizens’ travel just doesn’t make sense.

“It’s bad policy on so many fronts. It discriminates against dual citizens of Canada for starters. It discriminates against dual citizens of Canada flying into any Canadian port, as opposed to arriving by sea or land,” said Logan, 59, who was born and raised in Toronto before settling in Australia in 1980.

“From my vast bureaucratic experience in the public service, it has all of the hallmarks of being a simple revenue grab masked as ‘border security,’ with no discernible impact on safe and stronger borders.”

Source: Ottawa’s new air-travel rule catches dual citizens by surprise | Toronto Star