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FINTRAC Identification Guidance


On July 10th, 2019, the final amendments to Canada’s anti-money laundering (AML) regulations were published in the Canada Gazette.  One of the welcomed changes that came into force immediately upon publication was related to identification. On November 14th, 2019, FINTRAC published guidance related to “Methods to verify the identity of an individual and confirm the existence of a corporation or an entity other than a corporation.” This is good news considering the range of identification methods has been broadened, and a step forward in digital identification methods. The updated methods are designed to make it easier to identify customers that are not physically present.

As defined under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations (PCMLTFR), reporting entities have to identify their customers in certain situations (specific information on when customers need to be identified is outlined in FINTRAC’s guidance on “When to identify individuals and confirm the existence of entities”). The identification guidance outlines ways to verify the identity of an individual, and how to identify corporations or entities other than corporations (such as a partnership).

Identification Methods For Individuals

There are three ways in which an individual can be identified:

  • Government-issued photo identification method;
  • Credit file method; and
  • Dual-process method.

Government-Issued Photo Identification Method

Under this method, an organization can use an authenticvalid and current government-issued photo identification document, issued by either a federal, provincial or territorial government in order to be used to verify the identity of an individual. Foreign government-issued photo identification can be accepted if it’s equivalent to a Canadian document such as those listed in the guidance.

The photo identification document used to verify identity must:

  • indicate the individual’s name;
  • include a photo of the individual;
  • include a unique identifying number; and
  • match the name and appearance of the individual being identified.

If a customer is physically present, an organization can authenticate an identification document by looking at the characteristics on the physical document such as security features.

If the customer is not physically present, the authentication of the identification document must be determined by using technology capable of assessing the document’s authenticity. The guidance makes it clear that it is not sufficient to view a person and an identification document through video conference or similar. Meaning, a selfie while holding your driver’s license is not sufficient for identification purposes.

Whatever method is selected by an organization, the process to authenticate a photo identification document, and how the organization will confirm that it is authentic, valid and current, must be documented.

Credit File Method

Under this method, an organization can use valid and current information from a Canadian credit file to identify an individual.

The Credit File must:

  • be from a Canadian credit bureau (credit files from foreign credit bureaus are not acceptable);
  • have been in existence for at least three years; and
  • match the name, address and date of birth that the individual provided.

To rely on a credit file, the search must be completed at the time an organization is verifying the individual’s identity, and can be completed via an automated system or the use of a third party vendor.

When using the Credit File method, organizations must keep a record of the following information:

  • the individual’s name;
  • the date they consulted or searched the credit file;
  • the name of the Canadian credit bureau or third party vendor holding the credit file; and
  • the individual’s credit file number.

The guidance clarifies that sometimes information found within the credit file may contain variations of the name or address provided by a customer. In these cases, it’s up to the organization to determine whether the information in the credit file is a match to the information collected from the individual.

Dual-Process Method

Under this method, an organization can use valid and current information from two reliable sources. Under the dual-process method, an organization can verify an individual’s identity by referring to any two of the following options:

  • information from a reliable source that includes the individual’s name and address;
  • information from a reliable source that includes the individual’s name and date of birth; or
  • information that includes the individual’s name and confirms that they have a deposit account, credit card or other loan account with a financial entity.

In order to qualify as reliable, the sources should be well-known and considered reputable. There must be two sources providing the information, and the information cannot come from the individual whose identity is being verified, nor can it come from the organization doing the verification. For example, reliable and independent sources can be the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal levels of government, crown corporations, financial entities or utility providers.

A Canadian credit file can be used as one of the two sources required to verify the identity of an individual. so long as the credit file has been in existence for at least six months.

The organization must keep a record of the following:

  • the individual’s name;
  • the date they verified the information;
  • the name of the two different sources that were used to verify the identity of the individual;
  • the type of information consulted (for example, utility statement, bank statement, marriage licence); and
  • the number associated with the information (for example, account number or if there is no account number, a number that is associated with the information, which could be a reference number or certificate number, etc.).

Identification Methods For Organizations

The guidance details how to confirm the existence of a corporation, or an organization that is not a corporation. This can be done by referring to a paper or electronic record that was obtained from a source that is accessible to the public such as:

  • For corporations:
    • its certificate of incorporation;
    • a certificate of active corporate status;
    • a record that has to be filed annually under provincial securities legislation; or
    • any other record that confirms the corporation’s existence, such as the corporation’s published annual report.
  • For organizations that are not corporations:
    • a partnership agreement;
    • articles of association; or
    • any other record that confirms its existence as a legal entity.

If an organization refers to a publicly accessible electronic record to confirm the existence of a corporation or of an entity other than a corporation, a record must be retained including the corporation/entity’s registration number and the source of the electronic version of the record. If a paper record is used, a copy should be retained. At a minimum, for all organization types, an organization must collect and keep a record of the following:

  • their full legal name;
  • the organization’s structure;
  • the organization’s principal business;
  • the organization’s physical address; and
  • information about the organization’s directors and beneficial owners.

Other Identification Considerations

The guidance details how a domestic or foreign affiliate, an agent or a mandatary can be used to verify the identify of a customer. If this method is used, it is important for organizations to remember that, legally, they are responsible for verifying a customer’s identity, even though they are relying on someone else to do it. Organizations should obtain the identification information from the other entity and have a written agreement in place requiring the entity doing the identification to provide the identification verification as soon as feasible.

The guidance details how to identify children under 12 years of age (organizations must verify the identity of a parent, guardian, or tutor) and how to identify children between the ages of 12 and 15. For this age range, organizations can verify identity by using one of the prescribed methods to verify an individual’s identity and where not possible, relying on certain  information from the child’s parent, guardian, or tutor, and information that includes the child’s name and date of birth.

The guidance also reminds organizations that while the personal information that they are collecting is protected by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), personal information that is required to be included in reporting to FINTRAC does not have to be disclosed to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. It is important that organizations remember that safeguarding is a key consideration for all personal information collected in the normal course of business.


The most significant change for identification standards is related to the Government-Issued Photo Identification Method. A wording change from “original” to “authentic”, that was found in the prior version of the regulations, now allows for scanned copies of documentation, so long as it can be authenticated. It is noteworthy that the guidance gives clarity to all methods that can be used. Where further clarity is warranted, organizations can contact FINTRAC for a policy position related to the identification guidance. This can be done free of charge by emailing This can also be done on a no-names basis by a lawyer or consultant on your behalf.

We’re Here To Help

If you have questions related to the identification changes, or need help updating your identification processes, you can get in touch using the online form on our website, by emailing us at, or by calling us toll-free at 1-844-919-1623.

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