100,000 non-UK fingerprints recorded each month

Immigration officials dab hands at biometrics

By Steve Ranger

The government is recording over 100,000 fingerprints a month from foreign nationals while overseas and applying to come to the UK.

Visa applicants in 100 countries worldwide are required to provide fingerprints if they want to visit to the UK for work, study or tourism. The biometric programme has been running since last September with the aim of recording the fingerprints of every foreign national applying for a UK visa by April 2008.

Fingerprints taken as part of the visa application process are checked against government records to see if the individual is already known to the Border and Immigration Agency.

This has already seen over 8,000 sets of prints matched to individuals “of concern” which the government said proves the effectiveness of the biometric checks.

Immigration minister Liam Byrne said it’s not just abroad that these fingerprint records are used. Once these individuals are in the UK the Immigration Services use the same database for enforcement activity, such as illegal working operations.

The government said over 700,000 sets of prints had been collected by the end of August.