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India moves to ease biometric registration for air and cruise travel in wake of COVID-19

India moves to ease biometric registration for air and cruise travel in wake of COVID-19

The Indian government will allow domestic and international travelers to self-register for flights to and from the country with face biometrics, while the Mumbai Port Authority is urging two government ministries to ease the biometric enrollment phase for a e-visas by cruise passengers. The loosening of protocols comes as the COVID-19 takes less precedence over the economy and travel.

India to allow Digi Yatra self-registration for air travel

India will allow for passengers to self-register for the Digi Yatra (DY) program with government ID that will connect to their face biometrics to airports and airliners for a streamlined experience, reports the India Times.

Digi Yatra is a registration system for air travelers that seeks to expedite the processing phase and be connected to the infrastructure of an airport through registration of government ID and face biometrics checks.

The Times quotes an update on the ‘implementation of e-boarding process (DY)’ issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) that states passengers will be able to register their Aadhaar national identification number or driver’s license to create a Digi Yatra credential that will be linked to a single token face biometric. Other documentation like passports and e-passports will be added later, the update also says.

The Digi Yatra credentials are said to be stored and encrypted on a wallet held in the user’s smartphone and only shared with airliners, airports, and regulatory agencies with the consent of the passenger, the DGCA document writes. It will be shared and retained for 24 hours before departure and then deleted 24 hours after the flight. Airliners are said to share passenger data with Digi Yatra systems of airports for at least six hours before departure for ticket and ID validation.

The rules for collecting and using biometric data under Digi Yatra were set by a Ministry of Aviation statement in late-2021.

For people unable to register from home, the Times reports that airport registration kiosks will remain for ID checks and face biometric registration. Domestic and foreign travelers will be able to use Digi Yatra, the implementation of which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mumbai asks ministries to relax biometric enrollments cruise passenger e-visas

The Mumbai Port Authority (MbPA) is requesting that the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs reduce the barriers for face biometric enrollment for the e-visa acquirement phase for cruise passengers, according to the Free Press Journal.

In an interview with the Journal, MbPA chairman Rajeev Jalota told the newspaper that the authority is in talks with departments to minimize the time spent on biometric registration of cruise passengers arriving in India through busy ports like Mumbai to acquire an e-visa. Jalota points to cruise ships with 2,000 to 4,000 passengers that occupies a significant amount of time. He says a potential solution could be, “If the cruise is coming from a particular country, our people will board the ship from that place so that the biometrics can be done and until the cruise comes to Mumbai the process can be completed and time of passengers can be saved.”

The Journal reports that the Ministry of Home Affairs exempted cruise tourists from the face biometrics enrollment phase of e-visa requirements for three years since January 2018 to promote cruise tourism in the country by reducing the time spent on registration. Now with COVID-19 lockdown rules being loosened, the MbPA is looking to improve cruise tourism numbers to pre-pandemic levels.

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