Fingerprint checks at the border
This page explains how fingerprint checks have been introduced at the border for passengers with biometric UK visas, entry clearances and biometric residence permits (formerly known as identity cards for foreign nationals).
On 30 November 2009, the UK Border Agency introduced fingerprint checks at the border for these passengers. These checks are being introduced incrementally at ports across the UK.
The checks verify that the individual entering the UK is the same person who applied for their visa, entry clearance or biometric residence permit. Using fingerprints enables us to do this with greater certainty.
On arrival in the UK, our trained officers will scan two fingerprints on an electronic fingerprint reader at border control. In most cases we will use the thumb and first finger of the right hand. These scans will be checked against the fingerprints that were captured and stored when the person applied for the visa, entry clearance or biometric residence permit.
The fingerprint checks should take no longer than previous processing times for holders of visas, entry clearances and biometric residence permits. It may take additional time if there are difficulties scanning the fingerprints. There is no ink or mess involved in the process; passengers simply place their fingers one at a time on the glass plate of the fingerprint reader.
Children aged six and over will need to provide their fingerprints for checks.
There are certain exemptions from the fingerprint check process (see below).
The fingerprint checks are an additional tool to verify identity; passengers are still asked standard immigration-related questions when they arrive in the UK. If the fingerprint check reveals any queries about the individual's identity, these matters may be resolved through an interview, but this will not routinely be required.
If a passenger refuses to provide their fingerprints for checking, they will be subject to further investigation. This may result in a delay to their journey while a decision on admission is made.
Passengers will need to provide their fingerprints each time they travel to the UK with a visa, entry clearance or biometric residence permit. Fingerprints will be held for a maximum of two working days, and will then be destroyed.
Fingerprint checks at the border operate within legislation already in place to conduct biometric checks. This legislation includes:
Schedule 2, paragraph 4(5) of the Immigration Act 1971
the Immigration (Biometric Registration) Regulations 2008
There is no charge for fingerprint checks.
Passengers will not have to have their fingerprints checked at the border if they are exempt from immigration control under section 8 of the Immigration Act 1971 and have therefore qualified for an 'exempt' endorsement. These passengers, who will not have had their biometrics captured as part of the application process, are:
serving government ministers of state (or their equivalents) recognised by the UK government and travelling to the UK on the official business of their government;
diplomats accredited to the UK; and
diplomats transiting to or from a place where they are accredited.
Passengers who are not exempt from immigration control, but are not required to provide their biometric data, are also exempt from fingerprint checks. These are:
diplomats visiting the UK on the official business of their government; and
Other passengers who do not have to have their fingerprints checked are:
children aged under six;
amputees with less than two digits, as their biometrics will not have been captured as part of the application process;
people with right of abode in the UK - anyone holding a certificate of entitlement is not subject to the entry clearance requirement, and their biometrics will not have been captured as part of the application process; and
passengers whose visas were issued before biometric visas were introduced - again, these people's biometrics will not have been captured as part of the application process.
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