The U.S. Department of State announced that the United States and Canada have signed an agreement by which the two countries will share immigration-related information. The U.S.- Canada Visa and Immigration Information-Sharing Agreement was signed on December 13, 2012 by U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson, and the Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney.

Pursuant to the Agreement, when a foreign national applies to either the U.S. or Canada for a visa or asylum, the country will be able to send a request to the other for information related to the applicant, if available. The initial request will contain only such limited information, such as name, date of birth, and fingerprints, as is necessary to determine whether there is a match in the other country’s databases. If there is a match, additional immigration information will be shared, including whether the particular applicant has ever been removed or denied a visa. Sharing of biometric information will not begin until 2014, though biographic information sharing will begin this year.

The principal goal of the Agreement is to better facilitate the lawful immigration and national security endeavors of both nations. The Department of State has stated that the Agreement will “support better decision-making by both countries to confirm applicants’ identities, and identify risks and inadmissible persons at the earliest opportunity.” It will also “increase safety and security, as both countries work to identify terrorists, violent criminals, and others who pose a risk before they reach our borders.”

The Department has also noted that information related to U.S. or Canadian citizens and permanent residents will not be shared, and information will only be shared as is otherwise permitted under U.S. and Canadian law.

For more information on the U.S. - Canada Visa and Immigration Information-Sharing Agreement, please contact Bill Flynn, Board Certified Immigration and Nationality attorney.