India has established new regulations requiring British visitors to submit biometric information for their visa applications, according to a Telegraph article by Natalie Paris. The requirement is causing a bit of a backlash in Britain, with the Association of British Travel Agents lodging a formal complaint.
The new requirement appears to be part of the overall Digital India project that has seen a biometric citizenship registry established for all citizens as part of its Aadhaar ID card program. Given the utility of such biometric data in security screening, it only makes sense that the country would begin to collect it from visitors, as Saudi Arabia has begun to do with its new Umrah requirements. But the country has apparently recently relaxed its visa process with respect to other countries such as Germany and Finland, so the new requirements come as a bit of a surprise to the Brits.
The main issue at play here doesn’t seem to be the collection of biometric data in principle; rather, it seems that the rollout of the new policy has been sudden, and clumsily executed. Right now there are only three centers in the UK where visa applicants can submit their biometric data, and each person applying must book their own appointment – even children in a single family. And when they get to the centre, they might each have different appointment times. It’s a major inconvenience, and an unfortunate standout in the deployment of biometrics; the technology is meant to make travel easier, and in most cases, it does.
February 23, 2015 – by Alex Perala