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Governments act to support increased biometrics use, data sharing at borders

Biometric travel documents in Spain, Belarus and Uzbekistan evolving
Governments act to support increased biometrics use, data sharing at borders

Governments around the world are using common standards and ICAO-compliant biometric passports to secure immigration and border control processes, and adjusting and upgrading their policies and identity documents to better do so. The various processes are experiencing differing degrees of success amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A backlog of nearly 1.3 million immigrants in the U.S. waiting for appointments with Application Support Centers to submit their biometrics to the government as part of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) process, The Miami Herald writes.

Around 280,000 appointments were cancelled between March and June of 2020, after which USCIS began a phased reopening process, which have been disrupted by local stay-at-home orders and other reasons. The process for completing the process normally takes between 15 and 20 minutes, according to the report.

USCIS has announced that in order to deal with the backlog, it will reuse some biometric records it already has access to, after mailing the applicant a Form I-797, which will remove the need for an appointment at an Application Support Center.

Biometrics collection cannot be carried out during walk-in appointments, except from military applicants and their relatives.

Five Eyes biometric and biographic data-sharing practices revealed

New Zealand border agencies shared roughly 14,000 fingerprint biometric records with each of the other ‘Five Eyes’ countries in 2017, according to documents revealed through the country’s Official Information Act.

The documents revealing how the U.S., along with other ‘Five Eyes’ nations the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, shares biometric and biographical data and border information have been reviewed by Radio New Zealand.

The data is shared through the Secure Real Time Platform (SRTP), according to minutes from the M5 (Migration Five) Data Sharing Working Group (DSWG). The stated aims of the DSWG are to better identify “bad guys,” access additional data where biometric records are not available, and increase cooperation between the countries. According to the documents, the M5 Biographic Querying High Level Business Requirements were established in 2018, following a bilateral agreement between New Zealand and Australia, and work has gone into developing further bilateral agreements since.

A spokesperson for Immigration New Zealand notes that biographical information is not automatically exchanged.

ETIAS visa waiver requirement coming for 61 countries

Travelers from 61 countries, including the United States and Canada, will require ETIAS visa waivers to cross EU borders starting in late-2022, according to Etias-Europe.us. A biometric passport is required to apply for an ETIAS waiver.

ETIAS authorization enables entry and exit of the Schengen travel zone, consisting of most European Union members and European trade partners like Norway and Iceland. It is then valid for up to 90 days in any 180-day period, for up to three years.

Brits in Spain urged to acquire biometric residence cards

Spanish authorities have emphasized the value of the biometric TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) card for British people living in the country with green residence certificates, The Local writes.

Spain’s Secretary of State Hana Jalloul and the British Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott released a joint video assuring Britons in Spain that their rights will continue to be recognized. British residents must hold either the two old green residency documents, or if they applied for residency after July 6, 2020, the TIE card.

More than 50,000 British citizens have applied for the TIE card so far, according to the report.

“The Spanish Government would like to keep on encouraging British Nationals to exchange their green residency document for the new biometric TIE card as it may speed up administrative processes and, especially in the current situation regarding border crossings,” stated Jalloul.

Officials had previously encouraged holders of the legacy documents to avoid applying for TIE cards to allow new applicants to receive them, but as crossing between the two countries becomes more difficult, the advantage of the biometric credential is being highlighted.

Cost increase in Ukraine and public availability in Belarus for biometric ID documents

The cost of applying for biometric identification documents in the Ukraine has increased, as of January 1, 2021, though the state-owned Printing Plant Ukraine said in an announcement that the increase will be “insignificant,” the Kyiv Post reports.

More than 800,000 Belarussians are expected to receive biometric ID cards in 2021, Belsat reports.

A representative of the country’s Department for Citizenship and Migration within the Ministry of Internal Affairs noted that the new biometric Belarussian passport, which is also coming available this year, is not required for any domestic purpose. The representative also suggested that all domestic services are ready to accept the new ID card.

The country plans to issue 300 to 500 biometric passports per year, according to the report.

New Uzbek ID cards to replace biometric passports

Uzbekistan’s government has begun carrying out a plan to issue biometric ID cards to citizens from birth, as well as stateless individuals and permanent residents

Cards will be issued during 2021 and 2022 on a voluntary basis, with mandatory registration following until the end of 2030 to reach everyone in the country. At that point, even biometric passports issued under the 2011 design will become invalid.

The ID cards will expire in only two years for newborns and infants, after five years for children, and after 10 years for anyone above 16 years old. The cards will cost 198,470 Uzbek soums (US$18.95), according to the Kun.uz calculation of 89 percent of the base calculated value.

Dispute in stalled Kyrgyz biometric passport tender prompts arbitration

A Lithuanian investor is taking Kyrgyzstan to arbitration over a biometric passport tender won by Lithuanian company Garsų Pasaulis UAB, but never completed, Investment Arbitration Reporter writes.

The arbitration claim was made under the Kyrgyzstan-Lithuania bilateral investment treaty (BIT) according to UNCITRAL international law.

The tender agreement was never signed by the parties, as the government initiated a corruption investigation into the tender process.

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