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When COVID-19 was identified as a global pandemic in March, 2020, the Canadian government took unprecedented steps to limit the spread of the virus. This included closing Canada’s Visa Application Centres, commonly known as VACs, all around the world. As many countries around the world regain some control over the spread, VACs are reopening with limited services in some countries.
Jump ahead to find out what you need to know about VACs.
Update — February 23, 2023: IRCC revoked the public policy exempting in-Canada temporary residence applicants from the biometrics requirement. Temporary residence applications submitted within Canada on or after February 23, 2023, now require biometrics as per regular procedures, unless otherwise exempt.
Update — November 30: Immigration applicants who are residing inside Canada can once again book their own biometrics appointments online (Source: IRCC). Clients should use the closest biometrics office to them for their appointment. Notably, IRCC’s temporary special measures exempting certain applicants from requiring biometrics during the pandemic remain in place.
Update — November 26: Canada has taken measures to improve services in India and the United States. In India, VACs are now offering limited biometrics appointments for specific eligible clients (priority to family reunification cases and study permit applicants). In the United States, two new VACs have been opened in Seattle and San Francisco exclusively to assist with the demand for biometrics caused by the COVID-19 backlog.
Update — September 23: IRCC is introducing a new special measure for PR applicants who have already completed biometrics for a different immigration application within the past 10 years. These applicants will now be exempt from providing new biometrics with their PR application (Source: IRCC).
Update — September 14: Certain permanent residence applicants applying from inside Canada are being contact individually by Service Canada to schedule in-person appointments for biometrics. Applicants are being contact in the order in which applications were submitted (oldest applications first). At this time, applicants cannot book biometrics appointments unless they are first contacted by Service Canada. This is according to an automated message on the IRCC phone lines.
Which VACs are open right now?
Canada has reopened VACs in some countries around the world, although with limited services. To get the most up-to-date information, you can look up your VAC using the VAC search tool from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
What services are VACs offering right now?
As certain VACs reopen around the world, they are offering limited services. The services offered by each VAC vary, so be sure to check the website for your VAC. You can find your VAC using the IRCC VAC search tool.
At this moment, VACs will not accept or process paper applications for visitor visas, study permits, or work permits. You can still apply for these things, but you must submit your application online.
What measures do VACs have in place to limit infection risk?
IRCC has put in special measures to protect the health and safety of staff members and clients. Common health and safety measures implemented at VACs may include:
- use of hand sanitizer by staff and clients
- limiting the number of people allowed inside the VAC at any given time
- checking temperature of staff and clients
- use of gloves, face masks and face shields by staff
- frequent cleaning of the VAC
You can look up the measures in place at your VAC by using IRCC’s VAC search tool.
How do I get biometrics if I’m applying from inside Canada?
As of November 30, 2020, immigration applicants who are residing inside Canada will be able to once again book their own biometrics appointments online (Source: IRCC). Clients should use the closest biometrics office to them for their appointment. Notably, IRCC’s temporary special measures exempting certain applicants from requiring biometrics during the pandemic remain in place.
IRCC introduced a new special measure for PR applicants who have already completed biometrics for a different immigration application within the past 10 years. These applicants will now be exempt from providing new biometrics with their PR application (Source: IRCC).
Certain temporary resident applicants who are inside Canada are also exempt from the requirement to provide biometrics (Source: IRCC). This is a temporary measure. The exemption includes those who are applying from within Canada:
- to extend your stay as a student, worker or visitor
- to restore your status as a student, worker or visitor
- for a work or study permit
- for a visitor visa
- for a temporary resident permit
As well, this temporary measure does not apply if you are outside Canada. Those applying for permanent residence from within Canada are still required to provide biometrics (note that biometrics deadlines for PR applicants are extended due to COVID-19).
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