UK to Require Fingerprint Visas

Update:23 Aug 2007

Chinese travelers, students and business people heading for the United Kingdom will soon need to get their fingerprints scanned before they're granted a visa.

The heightened security measures, which will go into effect in October, may even lead to longer-term visas, UK officials said during a news conference held in Shanghai yesterday to announce the new requirements.

When the biometrics begins, UK-bound travelers will need to get their fingers scanned at any of the city's 12 visa application centers.

UK officials said the major reason for adopting the scans is to prevent the growing problem of international identity fraud and theft.

While they didn't cite specific cases in China, they did promise that the rule changes won't inconvenience applicants.

"We will give applicants fast, fair and efficient visa service," Carma Elliot, the UK consul general in Shanghai, told reporters.

She said visa application fees, which now run at least 1,000 yuan (USD132), will not increase because of the additional checks.

UK officials said applicants' fingerprints will be taken by an electronic scanner in digital form, so the process won't add much time to the process.

The officials said the UK was the first nation in the European Union to adopt biometric scanning. The United States has also done so.

The officials also said that the biometric process may allow the UK consulate to consider issuing longer-term visas, perhaps up to 10 years. Most typical visas now are good for up to six months.

UK visa sections around China dealt with nearly 145,000 applications in 2006. The approval rate was 91 percent, well above the 81 percent global average for UK visas.

Among the recipients, Chinese students are now the largest single international student group in the UK. In 2006, more than 60,000 Chinese students were studying in Britain, many of whom were attracted by the country's large number of one-year master's degree programs.

Source:Shanghai Daily

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