The British Embassy in Beijing has instituted a biometric visa program for China. All applicants for a visa to travel to the UK must apply in person at one of the 12 UK Visa Application Centers (VACs) in major cities across China where biometric data will be collected. UKvisas use face and fingerprint biometrics.
Britain introduces biometric visas in China
The British Embassy in Beijing announced Wednesday the official implementation of biometric visas from October 25, 2007 in China.
All applicants for a visa to travel to the UK must apply in person at one of the 12 UK Visa Application Centers (VACs) in major cities across China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing, where the biometric data will be collected.
The UK Government is introducing global biometric data collection from all visa applicants, regardless of nationality, as part of a world-wide biometric identification process.
According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry website, China is one of the last group of countries to which biometric visas are applied.
Biometrics refers to technologies that use biological data to authenticate a person’s identity. In the case of UKvisas, the physical characteristics that are verified are the face, via a digital photograph, and fingerprints, via an ink-free and chemical-free scanning device. The collection process takes two minutes.
“We are very excited to begin using this technology in the UK visa application process and view it as a major improvement on the existing system, increasing safety for UK residents and visitors,” said Mr. Paul Sherar, Director of Visa Services, China. “The British embassy and UKvisas see this as a forward-looking policy with no additional cost to applicants and with minimal inconveniences.”
Biometric visas are the future of personal identification. Already in use in the United States, the UK has introduced biometric visas in more than 100 countries and plans to extend this to the 135 countries where visa applications are accepted by the end of 2007. Additionally, with the European Union planning on implementing biometric visas, the UK is looking to the future by becoming the first member-state to implement the technology globally.
In 2006, the British embassy in China issued nearly 145,000 visas, which is an increase of 29% from the previous year. With the number of student, leisure and business travelers from China to the UK expected to grow, UK officials see the implementation of the technology as a way to improve the efficiency of the visa process, contributing to stronger educational, commercial and cultural ties between the two nations.