Australian Department of Immigration Commences Collection of Biometrics for Visa Applications

By Mark Webster
2 December 2010

The Australian Department of Immigration has commenced a trial to collect biometric information for visa applications from certain countries.

The reasons given for the introduction of biometrics are:

  • Strengthening border protection
  • Improving identity management
  • Reducing immigration fraud

Collection of Biometrics

The biometrics must be collected in a specified location - these are all offices of the VFS Global Corporation.

The biometrics to be collected include:

  • A facial image taken with a digital camera
  • A 10-digit fingerprint scan taken through a digital scanner
The biometrics must be provided each time an applicant makes a visa application.

Visa Applications Affected

Biometrics will be required to lodge a valid application in certain circumstances. Only paper-based applications will be affected - so if the visa application can be lodged online, biometrics will not be required. The nationality of the person applying is not relevant, but rather the country in which the application is lodged.

The following types of visa application will require biometrics:

Countries Affected

A legislative instrument has been issued specifying the places where biometrics must be collected, and the countries involved in the trial will be:
  • Bangladesh
  • Zimbabwe
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Kingdom of Bahrain
  • Sultanate of Oman
  • Kuwait
  • Qatar
  • Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


There is a long list of exemptions to collection of biometrics, including:
  • People aged under 15
  • Australian citizens and permanent residents
  • NZ citizens
  • APEC Business Travel Card holders
  • Sovereigns and heads of state, along with family members
  • Senior government officials, diplomats and family members

What will the Department of Immigration do with the Biometrics?

It seems likely that the Department of Immigration will match the data collected for an applicant with various databases shared with other countries. This may bring to light any prior criminal convictions or previous immigration history for that person, and so may lead to further investigation or even refusal of the visa application. The Department of Immigration has indicated that the biometric data will be held for a period of 80 years.

The new arrangements will inconvenience clients who do not live near the biometrics collection centres, particularly those who need to travel to Australia frequently as they will need to provide biometrics each time they make an application for an Australian visa.


Minister Chris Bowen's announcement on biometrics

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