Biometrics of travellers from US, UK yet to take off

The exercise was mooted after the arrest of alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorist David Coleman Headley.

New Delhi | Published: March 10, 2014 12:21:21 am

India is yet to insist on biometrics of travellers from the US and the UK though it is mandatory for Indians visiting these two countries to record biometrics to apply for visa. 

One of the reasons is believed to be likely resistance from visa applicants if such a rule is imposed. Besides the US and the UK, Indian embassies and missions countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Algeria and Congo are yet to begin recording biometrics of people visiting India.

The exercise was mooted after the arrest of alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorist David Coleman Headley facing trial in the 26/11 Mumbai blasts case. He is believed to have recced targets in India. The government launched the project to integrate and centralise details of visitors to India on a single platform to track movement of foreign nationals in India, biometrics being a key aspect.

The deadline to integrate all embassies under this system is September 2014.

The Indian Embassy in the US and Indian High Commission in UK have reportedly informed the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), carrying out the project that there will be resistance from visa applicants if biometrics like fingerprint and retina recognition are sought. A Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) official, however, said the delay was because companies to which the visa process had been outsourced did not have this clause in their contract.

“When this system was rolled out in 2012, the US and UK embassies had outsourced the contract to companies where this particular clause to record biometrics of applicants was not included. In the US, re-tendering has begun and same is with the UK ,” said the official, who did not want to be named.

In several other countries, cost of machines was reportedly a hurdle. Biometrics have been so far been rolled out in 35 nations under the project called ‘Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Registration & Tracking (IVFRT) system.’ It covers 169 missions, besides 77 ICPs (Immigration Check Posts), 5 FRROs (Foreigners Regional Registration Offices), and FROs (Foreigners Registration Offices) in the country.

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