US to issue new tamper-resist visas from October
By Jaime Hall
February 9, 2004
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Mr. Schensted said the US Congress has mandated the use of biometrics in the issuance of visas in an effort to enhance border security in the Visa Entry Reform Act. 2002. As a result, from October all American embassies and consulates will be fingerprinting visa applicants.
In Georgetown, the embassy will be ready to collect fingerprints from all applicants by the beginning of this summer and the embassy is committed to ensure that the process is both efficient and convenient for all customers, Mr. Schensted said.
Biometric is a measurable physical characteristic or personal behavior trait used to recognize or verify the claimed identity of a person. Among the features that can be measured are: date, fingerprint, hand geometry, handwriting, eye risk, retinal vain and voice.
The First Secretary said the United States is committed to the concept of "secured borders and open-doors" policy, by facilitating legitimate travel to the United States by international visitors but it is important that the integrity and security of the country's border is maintained.
He said the US is determined to preserve the crucial benefits provided by the international visitors to that country; therefore it is important to ensure that access to the country is not impeded for international travellers whose presence is valued.
In the process of screening applicants in the US and abroad, biometrics will be useful to existing procedures that could identify individuals who might be terrorist, criminals or other aliens who might represent a security risk to the US.
Proper identification of such individuals ensures the safety of legitimate travellers and strengthens the security of that country, he said.
The use of biometrics will assist immigration inspectors in the verification of identity of travellers.
Biometrics collected at US embassies and Consulates abroad are checked at ports of entry to verify that the same person travelling with the visa is the same person that applied for it, he said.
US visits allows immigration inspectors at US port of entry to verify the identity of the travellers using electronic finger print data and digital photographs, Mr. Schensted explained. Biometric identifiers chosen for use with US visa is a digital photo and electronic fingerprint scan.
The two index fingers of the visa applicant are electronically scanned in a nucleus process at the Consul's office during the interview with the applicants, the First Secretary said.
The US Department of Homeland Security maintains the database of individuals who have previously violated US immigration law and the traveller's database is checked against that database.
The consulate consolidated database is the state department electronic record of all visa records- issuance and refusals worldwide.