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Biometric checks launched for all UK visa applicants

Anyone applying for a visa to enter the UK will face biometric fingerprint checks from the end of January
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Written by Nick Heath on

All applicants for visas to enter the UK will face biometric fingerprint checks from the end of this month.

The fingerprint database contains the records of more than one million previous visa applicants.

The system will cover 133 countries, three-quarters of the world's population, and has already uncovered 10,000 visa applicants connected to earlier immigration cases and asylum requests and detected 500 cases of identity swapping.

This includes a Nigerian man trying to enter the UK under a different identity after serving an eight-month prison sentence.

The database has been rolled out in stages since last year and will be fully up and running by the end of January, three months ahead of schedule and costing only £37m to set up — nearly half of its original £70m budget.

Immigration minister Liam Byrne congratulated Border and Immigration Agency officials and set out 10 milestones to strengthen border protection this year, including introducing compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals who want to stay in the UK and introducing spot fines for employers not carrying out right-to-work checks.

Byrne said in a statement: "The public wants stronger borders. They want us to shut down the causes of illegal immigration and hold newcomers to account, deporting rule breakers where necessary."

Byrne added: "They also want a compassionate system, which makes and enforces decisions fast when we have obligations to honour."

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