Australia today announced its decision to join the global initiative on fraudulent visa applications by expanding its collection of biometric data to onshore applicants. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the move would reduce identity fraud and fraudulent claims. "Around the world identity fraud and fraudulent visa applications are on the rise.
We need to make sure that Australia's toolbox is world's best practice for dealing with this," the AAP news agency quoted Bowen as saying. The type of data that would be collected include digital facial images and 10-digit fingerprint scans. Bowen said this would help establish the identity of protection visa applicants who arrived in Australia often without sufficient documentation.
"Biometrics is an important tool in our efforts against identity fraud and against fraudulent visa applications," Bowen said. From this month, paper-based visa applications lodged in 16 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East will be required to submit biometric data, Bowen said, adding that seven more countries would be added soon. Applicants who apply for visas online and are eligible for an electronic travel document will not be required to supply biometric data.
"We are collaborating closely with the United Kingdom border protection agency and we've signed an agreement with them to use their facilities in various locations around the world, which will reduce the costs and include the efficiency of our biometric testing around the world," Bowen said.
Biometrics data will now be collected from all applicants for protection visas lodged in Australia, alongside those for most overseas applicants. The federal government will also begin the phased introduction of biometric data collection for processing offshore visa applications.