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Changes to Virtual Verification of Identity in Ontario

On December 31, 2022, the temporary emergency measure permitting the virtual verification of identity without authentication will end in Ontario. This means that effective January 1, 2023, verifying identity by only viewing an individual and their government-issued photo documentation virtually will no longer be permitted. Licensees who choose to verify the identity of an individual using video conferencing technology or other forms of virtual communication will be required to authenticate the government-issued photo identification document.[1]

According to the Law Society of Ontario this change is reflective of existing provincial health and safety measures, recognizes that three alternative methods are available to licensees for verifying the identity of an individual who is not in their physical presence, and aligns with the requirement under By-Law 7.1 that all documents and records used for verification purposes be authentic, valid, and current.

Licensees who verify the identity of an individual in-person using the government-issued photo identification method are not, however, required to take authentication steps other than examining the identification document to ensure it is authentic, valid, and current.

What is required to authenticate?

Licensees may assess the authenticity of the government-issued photo identification document by:

  1. Asking the individual to scan their government-issued photo identification document using the camera on their mobile phone or electronic device, and
  2. Using technology[2] to compare the features of the government-issued photo identification document against:
    • Known characteristics (e.g., size, texture, character spacing, raised lettering, format, design)
    • Security features (e.g., holograms, barcodes, magnetic strips, watermarks, embedded electronic chips), or
    • Markers (e.g., logos, symbols).

Taking these steps should confirm that the document is authentic as issued by the federal, provincial, or territorial government.

If you are unable to meet your client or potential client, virtual verification is not the only method available.

Alternate Verification Methods

Where licensees are unable to meet with an individual in person, they may verify the identity of that individual by using one of the following methods:

  • Credit File Method
  • Dual Process Method
  • Using an Agent

For a quick reference, licensees are encouraged to download a copy of the LSO’s Client Identification and Verification Flowchart:

Client Identification and Verification Flowchart

[1] https://lso.ca/lawyers/practice-supports-and-resources/topics/the-lawyer-client-relationship/virtual-verification-of-client-identity

[2] For example, the Digital Identification and Authentication Council of Canada (“DIACC”) has developed a directory of products that assess identification documents and verify the identity. The directory provides an overview of technology products that use government-issued photo identification cards combined with biometric facial scans to verify and authenticate identity documents.


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