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28 October 2011
New Zealand immigration officials announced recently that they will now be using biometric data scans for all visa applications submitted.
Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman announced the changes in a press release, stating, "Biometrics provides better tools which allow Immigration to confirm an individual's identity and protect New Zealand's border."
New Zealand immigration says that Visa applicants will benefit from the new biometric system as the application processing time should be significantly reduced.
Photographs will be scanned from passports at the visa processing stage and when entering the country. When fingerprinting is necessary, the applicant will be advised of the process and officials will use electronic scanners to capture an applicant's fingerprint data.
Until now, fingerprints were only collected for asylum claimants, but new legislation passed by the government will allow Immigration New Zealand to collect and store photos and fingerprints of all non-New Zealanders entering the country. According to the press release, access to biometrics data stored by New Zealand Immigration is governed by strict rules on data and privacy.
"The changes will protect people from identity theft and prevent the misuse of passports or visas by fraudsters and criminals," said Dr. Coleman.
In addition to collecting their own data, New Zealand is part of a five-country multinational security framework involving the immigration agencies of New Zealand, Canada, the US, Australia and the UK. This allows the agencies of each Country to share biometric data in order to better confirm identities of immigrants and visitors.