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I'm trying to figure out whether a visitor arriving in Canada by air for tourism purposes using an eTA would have their fingerprints taken or not.

https://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/biometrics.asp says

To visit Canada as a tourist only

You don’t need to give your biometrics if you plan to visit only.

(when I select "I didn’t give biometrics in the past.", "eTA")

But then https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/visit-canada/eta/after-apply-next-steps.html says

You arrive in Canada

If you enter Canada at one of 10 major Canadian airports:

Your fingerprints will be checked automatically at a primary inspection kiosk.

So it sounds like the first page is a bit misleading: you don't need to give your your fingerprints to get an eTA, but you do to actually use it, unless you arrive via a small airport? Is that right? Can someone confirm this from recent personal experience?

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    Probably exactly the same as with ESTA for the US: no need to collect biometrics in advance, but they are taken (the first time) or checked (after that). This potentially allows verification of biometrics from your passport, that you have not been flagged already as undesirable, that you don’t use multiple identities/passports to bypass visa rules, ability to flag you for future trips if you overstay, etc. (Not sure which of those they actually do).
    – jcaron
    Mar 19, 2023 at 14:37
  • been a few years, but when I visited Canada in 2018 there was no fingerprinting or anything. Just showed my passport and ETA and was let through.
    – jwenting
    Mar 20, 2023 at 8:49

1 Answer 1

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"Biometrics" is an interesting term in the world of immigration, as it has often come to mean something somewhat non-intuitive.

Many countries include a step called "biometrics" as a part of the application process for a visa. In some cases this would consist of simply having your fingerprints and photo taken during the visa application interview. However in many cases - especially when there is no in-person interview required - the "biometrics" step is a separate requirement that generally entails visiting a specific location that may be either a government run facility for the country you're visiting (eg, a consulate), but is more commonly a 3rd party location approved by the government to confirm your identity and collect your biometrics.

For example, if you are applying for most Canadian visas you will need to carry out "Biometrics" at one of the locations listed on this page.

Canada explicitly exempts visitors entering the country using an eTA from having to go through this "biometrics" step in order to obtain their eTA.

On arrival in Canada by air (and potentially also by land depending on the situation), most travelers are required to have their fingerprints taken - regardless of whether they are entering using a visa or an eTA, and regardless of whether they carried out the previous "biometrics" step or not.

For passengers where Canada already has fingerprint/biometric data (people who had this data collected during visa application, or people who have visited Canada before) these fingerprints can be used to confirm the person biometric data matches that which is already on file from the previous collection.

For travelers that have not had their biometric data collected previous (eg, first time eTA visitors), this data is saved for comparison on future entries, as well as potentially used determine if the passenger has been previously known to the government under a different name/passport.

So yes, your conclusion is correct. (The "small airport" exception you mentioned isn't necessarily correct - even then you can be made provide fingerprints if required).

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  • I have been on work/study visa in Canada as a national of a non-visa-exempt country who is getting a second citizenship from a visa-exempt country. To your point about 'determine if the passenger has been known to the government under a different passport', I was wondering if I'll be approved eTA and make entrance with the visa-exempt passport okay, as well as whether they'll be picking on me for that afterwards at my next entrance/eTA application? Thank you so much Mar 22 at 6:07

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