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UK updates penalties for breaking biometrics rules for digital visas

Alleged visa fraudsters nabbed in India
UK updates penalties for breaking biometrics rules for digital visas

Governments continue to pursue secure systems for biometric immigration control, but human opportunism remains a problem.

This week the UK published an update to its “code of practice about sanctions for non-compliance with the biometric registration regulations” attached to Biometric Immigration Documents (BIDs). The UK began rolling out BIDs in 2008, to replace potentially insecure immigration documents such as letters or ink stamps. Its 2007 Borders Act dictates that applicants for BIDs are required to provide biometric information such as a photograph of their face and fingerprints.

The code of practice, first published in 2015, addresses sanctions for those who fail to comply with the various maintenance requirements for BIDs, which now include updating a facial image every ten years (or every five, for youth under 16). The previous version did not stipulate how often images need to be updated, but rather required the document-holder to notify the government if the information became “false, misleading, or incomplete.” The change will help ensure the photos included in documents are not too old for accurate face biometrics matching.

Financial penalties and restrictions on movement include, in extreme cases of non-compliance, “the cancellation or variation by curtailment of a person’s existing leave to enter or remain in the UK.”

The updated version also introduces digital documents, such as e-visas, which the UK expect to fully transition to by the end of 2024.

VFS workers illegally file biometric data for visas

In a case of alleged extreme non-compliance with visa processes in India, a would-be trusted government partner is being accused of filing fraudulent Canadian visa applications using biometric information. The Economic Times of India reports that two employees of VFS Global allegedly produced false documents for 28 applicants and illegally registered their biometric information in Ahmedabad, in an attempt to subvert Canadian immigration protocol.

The perpetrators were captured on CCTV filing the biometrics in an otherwise empty VFS Ahmedabad office. They then forged appointment letters to send to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), which were flagged as suspicious by department officials.

For their trouble, reports the Times, the accused charged each applicant between 5,000 and 7,000 Indian rupees, or about US$60-85.

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