U.S. EMBASSY  FINGERPRINTING  VISA  APPLICANTS  USING  BIOMETRICS

MANILA, September 8
, 2004  (STAR) Applicants for immigrant visas were fingerprinted at the US Embassy starting yesterday using the biometric process as part of new security measures which the United States Department of Homeland Security has started implementing.

Next Tuesday, it will be the turn of non-immigrant visa applicants to go through the same biometric process for the US government’s fingerprint file.

Diplomats or government representatives traveling on official business are exempted from the new security procedure.

The US Embassy said the fingerprints of visa applicants between the ages of 14 and 79 were taken using an inkless electronic scanner.

Visa applicants are also required to have their photographs taken digitally, the embassy added.

The US Embassy said applicants who refuse to have their fingerprints taken would be denied a visa on grounds that their application is incomplete.

Biometric data will be used by immigration inspectors at the port of entry to determine if a person should be allowed into the US, the embassy added.

The US Embassy said holders of existing visas are not required to have their fingerprints scanned until their visas have expired and they decide to apply for a new one.

If applicants wish to have their fingerprints taken later, their application would be reconsidered without prejudice, the embassy added.

The US Embassy said the use of biometrics is required under the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002.

Under this law, US embassies and consulates worldwide must issue machine-readable, tamper-resistant visas and other travel and entry documents using biometric identifiers not later than Oct. 25, 2004, the embassy added.

Biometric identifiers in visa applications will reduce the use of stolen or counterfeit visas, the US State Department said. –Marvin Sy


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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