U.S.-Canada Visa and Information Sharing & Consular Interviews04 Feb 2013
The United States and Canada have entered into a new information-sharing agreement regarding immigration. This arrangement is intended to enhance security. On December 13, 2012, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada and the Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism signed a U.S.-Canada visa and immigration-sharing Agreement. This agreement was announced on the U.S. Department of State (DOS) WebSite.
Third-Country Nationals Affected
This new agreement will allow the U.S. and Canada to share information on nationals of other countries applying for visas or permits to enter either the U.S. or Canada. The goal of this information sharing is to better confirm the identity and potential risks associated with applicants as early in the visa process as possible. Immigration officers from both countries will have more information when reviewing immigration and asylum applications and this should increase the safety of both the U.S. and Canada.
Electronic Data Sharing
This U.S.-Canada agreement authorizes the U.S. to send an electronic request to Canada when a third-country national applies for a visa or asylum. The request contains limited information, such as the applicant’s name, date of birth, and possibly a fingerprint. If the information matches that of a prior application filed in Canada, then Canada will share details from the prior application, including whether a visa request was denied, or an individual perhaps was removed from the country. Canada now has authorization to send the same electronic requests to the United States when visa or asylum applications are received.
Biometrics Available in 2014
Biographic information sharing will begin in 2013 and biometric sharing will commence in 2014. The DOS announcement of the agreement states that the two countries will not be sharing information on U.S. or Canadian citizens or permanent residents of either country.
Visa Issuance Could be Affected by Background Checks
In a time when administrative processing delays are common at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, it is unclear whether this new U.S.-Canada agreement will increase or decrease visa wait times. Such delays were discussed in our NewsBriefs, Reminders for the New Year: Part 2 of 4 (25.Jan.2013) and Murthy Success Story: Mandamus Against DOS Results in Visa Issuance (23.Nov.2012).
If the information sharing succeeds in quickly identifying, or, in other cases, ruling out the identity of one who is inadmissible to the United States, then this information-sharing agreement may reduce processing times for visas of some individuals. However, this new system will not be fully electronic. Even with automated requests for information, immigration officers in the United States and Canada will be involved in checking and sharing information.
The information is shared between the two countries had been a source of speculation over the years. Now we know what both countries intend to do to protect the security of North America. This U.S.-Canada agreement reflects the combined interest in the security of both countries. It also advances technology and modernization efforts in our immigration programs.
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