back to article Biometrics tackle immigration abuse

Fingerprint visas are becoming a first line of defence against illegal immigration, according to the Home Office. The Home Office said it has taken more than half a million sets of fingerprints from visa applicants, equivalent to a set checked every 30 seconds, since the programme began last year. "New fingerprint visas are …

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Still a shambles

As someone with first hand experience of the visa application process the only people being hindered in attempting to visit Britain are those applying legitmately. The streams of illegals have not been halted. However, try and apply for a visa for a genuine holiday in Britain. The foreign office has outsourced a lot of their processing to local teams, thus increasing the level of corruption. They'll refuse to correctly assess your application with vague terms, then their associate who patrols the queue sells the clerk's services for fixed fees. A couple of grand obtains the complete article, no questions asked.

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Anonymous Coward

Includes EU->UK Visa applications presumably

So presumably spouses of EU citizens subject to the UK's racist visa requirement will also be required to give fingerprints? The answer to that question better be 'no'!

"In one case a Sudanese businessman applied for a visa to come to the UK, claiming he wanted to go to the UK for shopping and tourism. Although he declared that he had not travelled to the UK before or ever been deported, a biometric check showed a failed asylum claim in 2004 under a different identity. His visa application was refused."

So for this to be of benefit, six things have to have happened:

1. The person's fingerprints has to be already on the books.

2. The person's identity card could not be trusted as an indication of their identity.

3. The ID recorded doesn't match the current ID offered.

4. The person would otherwise been accepted for the visa. Which seems unlikely in the case of a Sundanese business with iffy identity paperwork and no reason to return.

5. The cost of issuing the visa incorrectly would be more than the cost of your big multi-billion pound biometrics projects.

6. The benefit of this program has to outweigh the tit-for-tat responses, British travellers and ex-pats face, whenever UK does stuff like this.

Wouldn't it be smarter to only do it in countries where the ID document can't be trusted? If the ID document can be trusted you're just duplicating effort at great cost and for great annoyance.

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Hmm....

> Although he declared that he had not travelled to the UK before or ever been deported, a biometric check showed a failed asylum claim in 2004 under a different identity.

And, of course, this judgement was entirely, guaranteed, 100% right and it could not, in any way, shape or form, have been a False Postive and his details were not accidentally matched with someone else who had a different identity...!

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Includes EU->UK Visa.....

The answer is errr no. When was the last time a memeber of the EU had to get a VISA to travel to the UK. Think you need to read up a bit more. As for your other points, you rant is a bit daft.

"1. The person's fingerprints has to be already on the books." Yes, hence they matched a failed application.

"2. The person's identity card could not be trusted as an indication of their identity." Not all countries have id cards.

"3. The ID recorded doesn't match the current ID offered". They check everybodies, hence they found it didn't match.

"4. The person would otherwise been accepted for the visa. Which seems unlikely in the case of a Sundanese......" How do you know the paperwork was iffy? This may be ligimate paperwork, he may of traved without id last time. And isn't visiting a country a valid reason for travel?

"5. The cost of issuing the visa incorrectly would be more than the cost of your big multi-billion pound biometrics projects." Really? So an attack by a known terroist (yes I know he wasn't) is better value for money?

"6. The benefit of this program has to outweigh the tit-for-tat responses, British travellers and ex-pats face, whenever UK does stuff like this." Such as?

So before you rant, do a bit of thinking.....

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Proves nothing

There's still no way of telling how many repeat visitors are not being matched against their previous biometric reading. No match, no problem, go on through sir.

When I visited LA last September the US VISIT system didn't record that I'd been in the US as recently as June. When the immigration officer asked about my previous visit, I said I'd entered via Minneapolis at the end of June - nothing on record. But the system did think I'd been to Washington DC in 2005 - I hadn't.

The guy didn't seem terribly surprised that my current biometrics weren't in the system and that it was throwing up spurious matches. Some reassurance there!

The whole biometrics mantra is security theatre at its finest and Liam Byrne's not clever enough to work this out.

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Anonymous Coward

UK habitants?

So they take fingerprints of immigrants, they record every person's move on CCTV but they still don't no who actually lives in the UK? Sounds sensible, indeed.

I just wonder how long it will take until the first fingertipless arrive...

EAfH.

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Anonymous Coward

EU to UK visas

"The answer is errr no. When was the last time a memeber of the EU had to get a VISA to travel to the UK."

People originally from visa countries who are legally resident in Europe need a visa to travel to the UK. This includes my wife (originally from the Philippines), even if she's travelling with me. It's a two day process that needs to be planned a few weeks ahead, although we never go to the UK now, it's just too time consuming to do.

"How do you know the paperwork was iffy?"

Because it wasn't enough to be trusted as declaring the identity of the person! If his ID wasn't iffy, then why wouldn't you take his ID as the declaration of his identity?!

"And isn't visiting a country a valid reason for travel?"

The UK requires proof that you have sufficient reason to *return* to your home country. The absence of sufficient proof is grounds for refusal of the visa.

"Really? So an attack by a known terroist "

*Known* terrorist???? And you even have their fingerprints ahead of time?

"Such as"

Examples, Brazil photograph and fingerprint US visitors in tit for tat response to USA fingerprinting them. Me being refused a husband visa and told I'd get better treatment if the UK treated Filipino's better. Ever dealt with a French town hall?

What the UK is doing is duplicating the identity process of other countries, and it's only justifiable, if there is no trustworthy identity process in the other country.

Or perhaps if it's, fingerprinting Americans in tit-for-tat response to them fingerprinting us. Otherwise it's just wasted duplication and a diplomatic insult.

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What if you have no hands?

Do they take toeprints?

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Anonymous Coward

False Positives...

According to the BBC news story where I read this

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6936139.stm

" Last month, Cambridge University IT expert Professor John Daugman warned that using fingerprints to identify individuals meant one in a thousand card-holders would be wrongly matched with other people's details. "

Now, let's look at the figures they quote:

" UKvisas said more than 500,000 sets of prints had been taken since the scheme was introduced last year, with 6,000 matched to "people of concern". "

So it looks to me like 500 out of those 6000 ought to be false matches. Or to put it another way (after correcting for the prosecutor's fallacy): 1 in 12 of those "potential immigration cheats" is in fact an innocent falsely accused.

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Justifiable?

A sovereign nation has the right to allow or deny access to it based upon whatever they want. That's kind of what sovereign means. If the UK wants to annoy you because your wife is Filipino, that may be a not-very-nice thing to do, but they're a sovereign nation and have every right to do it. Quite frankly, they don't HAVE to justify it to you.

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Justify...

They have to justify it to me because I live and vote here, and on behalf of the guy with the Filipino wife (who sounds as though he is of UK origin, though he doesn't say this) I don't want my government to pursue pointlessly obstructive visa policies - for all the reasons well explained above.

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Ok an exapmle

As my wife works with immigrants, I happen to know the system pretty well.

So you would like an example?

Mr X has arrived in this country. He has "legit" documentation from his country of origin, but has used acid to destroy his fingerprints. However unknown to him they do come back. He is housed at UK taxpayers money. His finger prints return and, by running the checks, they find out he has already tried to claim asylum in another country and the UK (under another name). Not only that but he has an outstanding warrant for arrest in France for a violent assult (hence he fled to UK). He is also wanted for several offences in his home country.

So would of an EU wide Biometric system worked? Well looked like it did in this case.

So let's see, fingerprinting unknown people, or letting in murderers and rapists? Tough call.

If I go to the states, they finger print people. I have a choice, I visit, or I don't.

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Anonymous Coward

Ok an Example

"Mr X has arrived in this country. He has "legit" documentation from his country of origin, but has used acid to destroy his fingerprints....."

I think I saw this movie, but in the one I saw, he also had a mask to disguise his face, that being the biggest biometric that's fully visible all the time and is present on his passport, driving license and French id card.

Now make Mr X a brit going to France and ask yourself if every brit should be fingerprinted and interviewed, while going to France just in case their fingerprints match a criminal record. Afterall, British Passports are less trustworthy travel documents than other passports, since British people don't have id from birth and the passport is granted by testimony of neighbours.

In fact, make Mr X a Brit person travelling from Reading to Slough, a random police identity stop catches him, just after his fingerprints have grown back.

Lets get real about this biometric visa stuff, it's an attempt to make biometrics more acceptable so that the public will more easily accept the time when they want to fingerprint, DNA and Retina scan every Brit.

Making spurious visa claims designed to play up British racism against Johnney Foreigner is just part of that.

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Anonymous Coward

Can't have cake and eat it

"A sovereign nation has the right to allow or deny access to it based upon whatever they want. That's kind of what sovereign means. If the UK wants to annoy you because your wife is Filipino, that may be a not-very-nice thing to do, but they're a sovereign nation and have every right to do it. Quite frankly, they don't HAVE to justify it to you."

No they don't have that right, it's a violation of 2004/38/EC to ignore her French residence permit. You can't both gain the benefits from being in the EU and at the same time block that benefits to other EU countries.

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Sure they can

@Anon:

"No they don't have that right, it's a violation of 2004/38/EC to ignore her French residence permit. You can't both gain the benefits from being in the EU and at the same time block that benefits to other EU countries."

This is akin to saying "I have to go to work." No one HAS to go work, but they prefer getting a paycheck to skipping, so they go. I have the right to skip work, and they have the right to fire me if I do so. In the same way, the sovereign nation of the UK has the right to control entrance into itself, and conversely, the EU has the right to do something about it, in theory.

Is it possible that being a legal resident is not itself sufficient to be granted visa-less travel? I ask becasue in the US, you can be a legal resident (work visa, student visa, spouse of citizen, etc), but have neither Citizenship or Resident Alien status, in which case, you'd still need a Visa to enter Canada, whereas US Citizens and Resident Aliens do not.

It's quite possible that the Filipino wife retained her citizenship from the Philipines, in which case, she'd have a Filipino passport, which would presumably need a visa for entrance into the UK. Living in a country legally (which is all the gentleman mentioned -- he never said anything about permits or citizenship) does not necessarily grant you the same rights as being a citizen of that country.

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Say again?

To the chap whose comment is entitled `Can't have cake and eat it´please could you reiterate. I am English and resident in Spain, my wife is Russian and has been resident in Spain for 6 years, does that make it easier or more difficult for her to travel to the UK?

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rent a quote?

The good Cambridge prof should know better. Biometric systems can be tuned in terms of the balance between false pos and false neg. The trick is for ambiguous cases to be looked at by a human expert, of course this costs money. Also invites the question whether prof's quote refers to a single fingerprint or two handfuls (do toes have prints?). Use enough and the relaibility should be pretty good.

Incidentally Aust is now using good German software for facial recognition in their passport issuing process, even I was impressed to learn that they run a pic against the entire db of 12 mill records and get an ans in 6 secs. What's more the matching is a lot more reliable than immigration offrs comparing the passport pic with the face in front of them. Obviously the next step in UK is to used both fingerprints and pics.

My wife is also foreign, but she got a UK passport with a certificate of patriality ASAP after she married me (outside UK). However, that cert has disappeared and now she just has a ordinary UK passport. Needless to say I live well away from UK. I didn't grease any palms either.

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Sovreignty

If a country does not make all the laws for that country, that country is not sovreign. It is as simple as that. When UK joined the EC, they gave up much of their sovreignty. Now George Bush wants to create a North American community and give up sovreignty of the US to Canada and Mexico. Joining Canada would be a gain but joining Mexico would be disastrous. GWB talks a good case but, as the Bible says, "by their works shall you know them." And I am a life-long Republican, at least for the last 50 years but not any more.

Signature: Ask the American Indians what happens when you don't enforce border control.

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