The visa application process in Australia is about to get a little less convenient for its rural population, particularly if the applicants are aiming to live in India for an extended period.
As part of the Indian Visa and Foreigners Registration and Tracking (IVFRT) Programme, incoming visa applicants must submit biometrics as part of the process, which was once a completely online affair. Indian visa applications will now require that an appointment be made for travelers to submit fingerprint and facial biometrics in person at an enrollment office.
The new biometric enrollment requirement will become effective next month, after which all visa applicants (save diplomatic personnel who may enroll in India) must submit an application in person before having their fingerprints and faces scanned.
The announcement of this new requirement was made in early September, and some Australians are not very pleased about the changes. The enrollment services are only available in the six Australian cities that have the appropriate offices, so citizens requiring visas that don’t live in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth will need to make a pilgrimage.
Critics of the policy change sympathize with Australia’s rural folk, who make up nearly 11 percent of the country’s 19 million person population. As noted by Michael Gebicki, a writer for Australian website Traveller.com.au, the changes will be particularly inconvenient for citizens of the island state Tasmania. None of the six enrollment offices are on the island, so the application will require even extra effort in order to make it to Melbourne.
One nation’s inconvenience is coming at the other’s boon, however. India’s embracing of biometrics stands to greatly benefit the nation.
India’s biometric national ID program, though controversial among some of the country’s population, is enabling greater accountability when it comes to the issuance of government grants, better transparency in government offices and may even enable affordable, federally provided healthcare.
That said, the situation in Australia highlights an important issue when it comes to rolling out any sort of government policy, especially those that require long distance travel for rural citizens. Government eServices combined with mobile technology could potentially offer remote biometric enrollment in cases like the Indian visa conundrum.
Mobility and biometrics are helping rural citizens all across the world receive healthcare in their own homes, while mobile enrollment kits are allowing for remote citizens to participate in biometric elections. Hopefully for future Australians aiming to score an Indian visa, the same kind of conveniences come to secure document enrollment.
November 10, 2014 – by Peter B. Counter