India: Immigration Data Shared Between Nations!!

Last Updated: 21 October 2015
Article by Poorvi Chothani and Hriyanka Shah

International travelers often have these questions: Is my data safe with a country when I apply for a visa? Is it shared with other countries? If the U.S. denied my visa will the Canadian Embassy have access to this information?

The answer to all these questions is 'Yes' and that can be alarming.

2009 marked the year that officially allowed the exchange of specific biometric data between participant countries of the 'Five Country Conference (FCC).' The member countries, namely: the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, agreed to share biometric data from applications for visa and other immigration benefits of potential immigrants to jointly combat illegal immigration under the High Value Protocol Data Sharing (HVDS) initiative.

The reason for sharing this data is primarily to improve security and regulate criminal activities in FCC countries as well as to track suspected terrorists and criminals who intend to avoid legal prosecution. However, the request must meet a certain criteria such as evidence that the person had travelled from one of the FCC countries or had previously been arrested in one of the FCC countries before it can be submitted to another member country. Further, it is important to note that no information is shared about the individual in question unless there is a positive match of the person's fingerprints.

The HVDS has also outlined critical steps that each country should follow while sharing data to ensure the process of sharing information is secure. One of these guidelines instructs the FCC country obtaining the data to immediately destroy it in a secure manner.

Further, the UK and Ireland have a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen the Common Travel Area comprising the jurisdictions of the two nations as well as the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. This MOU allows the UK and Ireland to share data and exchange information, which will be used to make immigration decisions. According to the Irish government, "It is by cooperating to the greatest extent possible in protecting our borders from abuse, by preventing persons from entering our countries who have no right to be here, that we lay the foundations on which to extend the benefits of borderless travel between our countries to genuine visitors."

What is the Biometric Data Sharing Process?

There is an upper limit of 3,000 fingerprints to be shared between member countries, according to the HVDS protocol. Definitive proof of either:

  • Person in Question to have travelled from one of the FCC countries, or
  • The said person's arrest in one of the FCC countries

Authorities of the FCC countries request this information. If deemed valid, the biological data of the individual is officially shared. The shared data includes:

  • Full Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Country of Origin and Nationality
  • Information from the visa application
  • The status of the individual i.e. refugee or resident
  • The duration of an individuals stay in an FCC country along with visa applications
  • Criminal records (have to be verified by the BCMT before being shared)

Next, the information is cross verified or compared to another FCC country and the documents sent by an individual to an original FCC country.

Effects of Data Sharing for Immigration

  • Any individual risks the sharing of their biometric data to other FCC countries.
  • There will be a lower chance of foreign criminals entering FCC countries thereby protecting overall citizen welfare
  • Elimination of duplicate passports with fake identities from seeking asylum in other countries is restricted.

Additionally, this sharing of information is very relevant to the nationals of India and China as a new British-Irish Visa Scheme now allows Chinese and Indian visitors to travel to the UK and Ireland on a single visit visa. For example, the information now submitted for an Irish visa application can ostensibly be shared between the five FCC countries.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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