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All visitors to US to submit biometrics before visa application under White House draft plan

All visitors to US to submit biometrics before visa application under White House draft plan

The U.S. Government’s executive branch is planning to build a massive database of biometrics from applicants for visas to enter the country, The Wall Street Journal reports based on draft plans and a pair of government sources.

The plan would require visa applicants to submit their fingerprints, and possibly other biometric data, in order to be eligible for online application submission. The current system requires visa applicants to be interviewed and submit their fingerprints at a U.S. consulate after submitting their applications.

The plan would also change the requirements of citizens from Canada and 39 countries with visa waivers, forcing them to submit their biometrics.

Officials with the White House’s National Security Council have instructed the Department of Homeland Security to begin purchasing biometric scanners to equip the country’s consulates, according to the report. The new devices would take higher resolution fingerprints than those captured by the consulates’ legacy scanners.

The motivation, according to the Journal’s account of dialogue within the administration, is to give the government more time to perform background checks.

The Journal quoted a former State Department under the previous administration who suggests the plan could prove counterproductive by scaring away suspected criminals or terrorists from the process before they provide information to the U.S. government about themselves. Some Homeland Security officials also reportedly expressed concerns that other countries currently participating in the visa waiver program may impose restrictions on U.S. travellers in response to the new rules.

The planned expansion of biometrics collection was mentioned in a June Presidential Proclamation that temporarily banned some work-based visa categories for the remainder of 2020. That proclamation asked DHS to collect “photographs, signatures and fingerprints”

It is unclear if the changes could be put in place before the end of the current term.

DHS has recently been criticized by dozens of groups and thousands of individuals for a planned expansion of immigrant biometrics collection, and for providing only half of the expected period for public comment.

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