Canada, U.S. to share personal information of immigrant applicants
Posted on October 9, 2013
Ottawa and Washington are further aligning their border security by sharing personal information of immigration and refugee applicants to both countries.
The plan, to be fully implemented next fall, is raising privacy concerns over the disclosure and retention of information, such as an applicant’s date of birth, travel document number and fingerprints. The information-sharing wouldn’t apply to Canadian and American citizens or permanent residents.
“Information-sharing between Canada and the U.S. . . . supports mutual efforts to facilitate legitimate travel and protect our common borders through improved screening of visitors before they enter our countries,” said Alexis Pavlich, press secretary of Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.
“Privacy protection is a primary consideration for us, and the limited information exchange will comply with all relevant Canadian laws, including the Privacy Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to ensure that Canadians’ privacy rights are protected.”
While it is too early to speculate on the impact of the changes, Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees said, “We will be watching very closely over the privacy concerns and risks it poses to people who face persecution and torture back home.”
The proposed regulations are expected to result in an increase in the number of refugee claimants identified as ineligible, a decrease in the volume of crime and a decrease in detention and removal costs of nationals of a third country by denying them entry to Canada, said Citizenship and Immigration Canada director Chris Gregory, who drafted the proposal.
Gregory, who is responsible for the department’s identity management and information sharing, says an estimated 2.2 million foreigners applying to come to Canada will be checked against American records.
The info-sharing scheme could reap a net benefit of $42 million over 10 years from savings in detaining and removing individuals inadmissible to Canada, he added.
Bilateral border information sharing between Canada and the United States is not new, but in the past, has been limited to select cases — about 3,000 a year.
“Case-by-case immigration information-sharing has been effective in that it has uncovered instances of foreign nationals using false identities, inadmissible criminals attempting to enter Canada, fraudulent refugee claims and individuals providing information on the immigration application that was not credible,” Gregory said.
Authorities in both countries will create a computer database and infrastructure capable of exchanging electronic queries on applications made by nationals of a third country and refugee status claimants to Canada.
The system, officials say, will allow for the sharing of “limited” information for the processing of applications for a permanent or temporary resident visa, a work or study permit, or to obtain asylum.
Whether a match is found or not, the country performing the search of its records must delete the biographic or biometric information sent in by the other country.
Canadian officials would not have direct access to the American database, and vice versa. A “specific domestic authority” will be created to oversee the immigration information sharing between both countries.
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