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Submitting biometrics is now a required step for applicants for a Canadian work permit, including those applying under the International Experience Class (IEC) program.

On February 23, 2023, Canada removed the pandemic-era biometrics exemption for certain foreign nationals. Temporary residence applications submitted within Canada will now require biometrics as per regular procedures, unless otherwise exempt. The means that biometrics for IEC applicants are now needed.

Here’s how it works

There is some confusion out there because many people think they need to submit their biometrics when they first submit their documents with the IEC application.

Rather, you receive a request to submit biometrics AFTER you submit your IEC application and have paid the fees (including a biometrics fee).

These biometrics can only be submitted at a Visa Application Centre (VAC) or Application Support Centre (ASC, in the USA only). Or, for applicants in Canada, you can now submit your biometrics by appointment only at any designated Service Canada Centre.

After submitting your work permit application, you’ll soon receive a request to submit biometrics. From the date you receive the request for biometrics, you have 30 days to complete them and upload your receipt.

What is the IEC program?

The IEC program is a youth exchange program for international youth from more than 30 countries to spend time living and working in Canada. Through the IEC, Canada welcomes tens of thousands of working holidaymakers, young professionals and interns annually.

What are biometrics?

The biometric process involves the collection of electronic fingerprints, a digital photograph, and personal details of applicants.There is a fee of $85 CAD for individual applicants, with families applying together at the same time paying a maximum of $170.

Why does Canada require biometrics for IEC participants?

Submitting biometrics is not only required for IEC, it’s required for applications for a work permit (including IEC applicants), study permit, visitor visa, permanent residence, or refugee or asylum status, with a few exceptions.

New Visa Application Centres (VACs)

In order to meet the increased demand for biometric testing facilities for IEC applicants, particularly in Europe, Canada has opened a number of additional Visa Application Centres (VACs). It is important to know that these centres are run by third-party companies, and their remit extends only to the collection of biometric data. IEC applications will not be accepted at a VAC.

In addition to existing European-based VACs in Dusseldorf (Germany), Warsaw (Poland), Madrid (Spain), London (United Kingdom), Paris (France), Rome (Italy) and Stockholm (Sweden), new VACs have opened in Lyon (France), Berlin (Germany), Vienna (Austria), and Athens (Greece), with a very limited biometrics collection service also available in Dublin, (Ireland) and Oslo (Norway).

In addition to these European-based VACs, centres are also present in a number of cities in other IEC designated countries. However, changes that took place in early November, 2018 resulted in the closure of some VACs in the Asia, Asia Pacific and the America regions, with new VACs opening in new locations. In addition, changes were made to whether or not applicants must make an appointment before visiting a VAC, with many VACs now making an appointment mandatory.

At present, there are VACs in Melbourne and Sydney in Australia (the Perth VAC having closed in early November, 2018), Auckland (New Zealand), Tokyo (Japan), Seoul (South Korea), Taipei (Taiwan), Hong Kong and San Jose (Costa Rica), among others.

More are expected to be rolled out in the future.

If you are an IEC hopeful living in or near one of these cities, then your application process should not be too challenging, at least as far as biometrics are concerned. However, if you happen to be resident in a city not in close proximity to one of the aforementioned locations or worse still, a country without a VAC at all, then you are suddenly at a logistical and financial disadvantage. After all, applicants only have 30 days to submit biometric requirements following the issuing of the Biometrics Instruction Letter.

At present, many designated IEC countries do not have a VAC located within their borders, while other countries like Ireland and Norway have very limited operating hours each month. In practise, this means that an IEC applicant from Chile will have to make their way abroad (for example, to Buenos Aires in Argentina) to complete the required biometric testing in the closest VAC, while applicants from Latvia or Estonia may need to travel to Warsaw, Kiev or Moscow to complete this part of their IEC journey.

Biometrics for IEC: what next?

Through engagement on our IEC Working Holiday Forum and elsewhere on our network, we have received first-hand accounts of IEC applicants who have recently had to address travel issues needed to make their IEC dream a reality. In the case of applicants from the Republic of Ireland and parts of the United Kingdom far from London, this has meant having to pay for flights or other travel to London and often accommodation when there, while also taking a day or two off work or studies. Similarly, in continental Europe we have encountered IEC applicants who have had to travel large distances by train, plane, bus or car to their nearest VAC.

From an IEC perspective, many of the concerns about the biometric requirements are from applicants who were caught unaware of the changes back in 2019, while others who feel that the lack of a designated VAC in each IEC country is making the process unnecessarily difficult. There is no doubt that the biometrics for IEC requirement is somewhat of a game-changer for a program that had previously been renowned for its convenience, but if additional VACs are added in the near future, then this should make the process run a little smoother.

For now, we recommend that all IEC applicants in 2020 take note of their closest VAC, even if it is in a different country, and allocate sufficient time and money to complete this crucial stage of their IEC journey within 30 days of receiving their Biometric Instruction Letter. We know that taking a multi-hour flight or train-ride for a biometric test that takes only a few minutes to complete is far from ideal, but if you really want to live and work in Canada, then we think it’s a sacrifice worth making.

This page on biometrics for IEC applicants will be updated as and when any relevant new information becomes available.

About the author

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Hugo O'Doherty

He/Him
Canadian Immigration & Integration Specialist
Hugo O’Doherty has over a decade of experience and research in Canadian immigration, establishing him as a recognized authority on immigrant integration and adaptation. His personal and professional experiences with immigration have made him an expert on the practical aspects of successfully moving to and settling in Canada.
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