Europe proposes central fingerprint database of immigrants

News & Analysis
Europe proposes central fingerprint database of immigrants

In a move that mimics the U.S. fingerprinting policy under the VISIT programme, the European Commission has adopted a proposal for a regulation that would create a central database for all visa applicants fingerprints and photos. Regulation available on the Europa website.

In a somewhat positive turn, it is important to note that the retention period of this data is only five years, compared to 100 years in the U.S. Relevant excerpts include:

To ensure exact verification and identification of visa applicants, it is necessary to process biometric data in the VIS. This allows the verification and identification independent from the existence, presentation and malfunctioning of other storage media like microchips."

(9) To ensure exact verification and identification of visa applicants, it is necessary to process biometric data in the VIS.

(10) It is necessary to define the competent Member States’ authorities, duly authorised staff of which are to have access to enter, amend, delete or consult data for the specific purposes of the VIS, to the extent necessary for the performance of their tasks.

(11) The personal data stored in the VIS should be kept for no longer than is necessary for the purposes of the VIS. It is appropriate to keep the data for a period of five years, in order to enable data on previous applications to be taken into account for the assessment of visa applications, including the applicants’ good faith and for the documentation of illegal immigrants who may, at some stage, have applied for a visa. A shorter period would not be sufficient for those purposes. The data should be deleted after the period of five years, unless there are grounds to delete it earlier.

Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data32 applies to the processing of personal data by the Member States in application of this Regulation. However, certain points should be clarified in respect of the responsibility for the use of data, of safeguarding the rights of the data subjects and of the supervision on data protection.

2. The VIS shall improve the administration of the common visa policy, consular cooperation and consultation between central consular authorities by facilitating the exchange of data between Member States on applications and on the decisions thereto, in order:

(a) to prevent threats to internal security of any of the Member States;

(b) to prevent the bypassing of the criteria for the determination of the Member State responsible for examining the application;

(c) to facilitate the fight against fraud;

(d) to facilitate checks at external border checkpoints and within the territory of the Member States;

(e) to assist in the identification and return of illegal immigrants;

(f) to facilitate the application of Regulation (EC) No 343/2003.


3.1 1. Only the following categories of data shall be recorded in the VIS:

(a) alphanumeric data on the applicant and on visas requested, issued, refused, annulled, revoked or extended;

(b) photographs;

(c) fingerprint data;

(d) links to other applications."