OECS members may need to go to T&T for Canadian visas from December
Members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) seeking visas, work or study permits for Canada may need to visit Trinidad and Tobago in order to provide biometric information from December 31, 2018.
According to information on Canada's government website everyone who applies for a visitor visa, work or study permit (excluding U.S. nationals), permanent residence, or refugee or asylum status will need to supply biometric information.
For applicants from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, this will be enforced from July 31, 2018, while for applicants from Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas, this will be required from December 21, 2018.
A representative from the Canadian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago said that the new measures are part of the Canadian government's worldwide policy changes.
"Starting from the 31st of December, we'll have to provide biometrics, that would be fingerprints and (identification) photos. This would be done at the VACS (Canadian Visa Application Centres)," said Jacinthe Binovec.
Binovec said that this information, however, would only need to be renewed every 10 years.
She added that there are plans to establish another VACS within the Caribbean in 2019, however more information on this would be supplied at a later date.
"We're really working at finding mitigating measures for this. Everyone who applies for a visa or study permit or work permit will have to go to a VACS to provide biometrics. This will be done once for every 10 years. Once it's done, it's valid for 10 years," she said.
There are currently 137 VACS worldwide. In the Caribbean, there are currently four VACS: Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
There are nine OECS members: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as the British Overseas Countries and Territories of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and Montserrat.
The Canadian government said on its website that biometrics will provide immigration officers with additional information to help make decisions on a person’s admissibility and by simplifying the travel of low-risk individuals.
"The fingerprints are stored by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on the National Repository and checked against its immigration and criminal records. The biometric check confirms if someone applied to enter Canada before using the same or a different identity, has a previous Canadian criminal record, or has been removed from Canada before.
"Biometrics-based information sharing with the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom will further support the integrity of Canada’s immigration system, in a manner that respects Canada’s privacy laws, civil liberties and human rights commitments, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"At the border, the Canada Border Services Agency will be able to quickly and accurately confirm whether a traveller’s identity is legitimate. This will contribute to more efficient and timely entry for travellers.
"At 8 major Canadian airports, fingerprint verification will be automatically conducted at a primary inspection kiosk.
"At other airports and land ports of entry, discretionary fingerprint verification will be conducted by a border services officer upon referral to secondary inspection, where the traveller’s identity will be verified to ensure that the person seeking entry to Canada is the same person who was approved overseas," the website said.
There are some exemptions:
- 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)
- children under the age of 14
- applicants over the age of 79 (there is no upper age exemption for asylum claimants)
- heads of state and heads of government
- cabinet ministers and accredited diplomats of other countries and the United Nations, coming to Canada on official business
- U.S. visa holders transiting through Canada
- refugee claimants or protected persons who have already provided biometrics and are applying for a study or work permit
- temporary resident applicants who have already provided biometrics in support of a permanent resident application that is still in progress
For applicants applying for a visa, study or work permit, or permanent residence while in Canada, they are exempt until the in-Canada service is established.
To find out if you need a visa for Canada visit the Canadian website online at http://www.cic.gc.ca
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