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
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
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:
Date of Birth
Country of Origin and
Information from the visa
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
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
Elimination of duplicate passports
with fake identities from seeking asylum in other countries is
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.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).