The world of travel is moving towards a biometric era. Collecting the travellers’ biometric data, including finger prints and iris scans, is fast becoming an integral part of international travel. The underlying reason for the collection of such data by governments is border security.
It’s incumbent on the travel agents to apprise all travellers the effect this technology will have on their travel plans. On one hand, the world is increasingly looking to move towards electronic travel documents. From filing an application online to attaching scanned documents and getting e-visa by e-mail, many governments are making the process simpler. On the other hand, ever increasing security needs of these very countries are resulting in launching mandatory capture of biometric data, which slows the process considerably.
It is now commonplace when applying for a visa to be expected to attend an application centre to provide your fingerprints. One challenge for governments in implementing widespread collection of biometrics – particularly fingerprints – is that the process of capture is inherently physical, which typically needs to take place in a controlled environment using specialist equipment and trained staff. Without biometrics, the visa application process would by now almost certainly have gone totally online.
The vast majority of governments will capture two elements of a person’s biometrics to support the visa application; fingerprints and a facial photograph. Whilst others such as iris (eye) scanning, ear recognition and palm vein recognition do exist, they are not yet widely used to support visa applications. The data collected is then electronically packaged together and sent to the relevant government to support the visa application.
Eventually, biometric enrolment facilities for visa applications will evolve towards shared, purpose neutral, drop-in centres. As smart phones continue to evolve, we can expect to see biometric technology becoming part of their entry-level function, which will begin moving biometric checks away from facilities toward self-administered online enrolments and checks. As the ubiquity of biometric checks increases there will be pressures to drive out duplication while preserving privacy. This should also lead towards faster and a more streamlined visa application process. Sridhar Krishnamurthy is Director - Operations at TT Services, a leading provider of visa processing solutions. Spread across 51 locations in 38 countries the company is a trusted partner for governments, diplomatic missions and large corporates. TT Services is a part of TUI Group, the world’s largest integrated travel company. www.ttsvisas.com.
Sridhar can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.