The deadline for enrollment in Saudi Arabia’s biometric citizenship registry is fast approaching, with a media release stressing that all expatriates must provide their fingerprint for their iqama residence permits by January 21st, according to an article in the Business Standard. This is part of a general effort being made by the kingdom to ensure that all citizens and expatriates are signed up for the biometric registry.
The fingerprints are going to be stored in the government’s Automated Central System (ACS), and while iqamas are valid for only one to two years, it seems that the fingerprints only need to be recorded once. It’s a securitization effort that has been unfolding over the last few years, and the ambitious nature of the plan – which targets essentially all residents of the kingdom – has even seen the government’s Passport Department sending mass text messages reminding individuals of the coming deadline. Those over the age of 15 who do not register their fingerprints will be unable to access online government services, and won’t be able to get or renew residence permits.
While governments around the world are increasingly adopting biometric technology, initiatives as ambitious as this are still relatively novel and rare, the other major leader in developing a biometric citizenship registry being India with its massive Aadhaar project. Saudi Arabia has also been a bit of a trailblazer in the realm of biometric security screening, which it has implemented to some controversy in an effort to screen Muslim travelers undertaking the Umrah pilgrimage.
January 19, 2015 – by Alex Perala