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Biometric Information Collection

Biometric Information Collection

  • Q: Why are you collecting fingerprints for visa applicants?

    A: U.S. law requires that as of October 26, 2004, biometric identifiers be collected from all visa applicants. As of October 26, any visa applicant between the ages of 14 and 80 at any U.S. visa-issuing office abroad will have fingerprints taken as part of the visa application process. Fingerprints, in addition to the photos we already ask applicants to provide, were chosen as the most effective and least intrusive biometric identifier.

  • Q: What date will the new procedures be implemented in Taiwan?

    A: The new procedures will go into effect September 13, 2004, for immigrant visa applicants; September 15, 2004, for non-immigrant visa applicants.

  • Q: Where else are fingerprints currently being taken?

    A: The U.S. began fingerprinting visa applicants in September 2003 at the U.S. Embassies in Brussels, Guatemala City and San Salvador and the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt.

    All U.S. visa-issuing offices abroad will be fingerprinting visa applicants by October 26, 2004.

  • Q: What impact will the fingerprinting have on the visa application process? For example, will visas cost more?

    A: Nothing will change in the visa application process except for the addition of the quick fingerprinting. All other application procedures and fees will remain the same as before.

  • Q: How will you take the fingerprints?

    A: We will collect two fingerprints from each applicant using an electronic scanner. No ink is used, and the process takes about 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

  • Q: What happens if a visa applicant refuses to be fingerprinted?

    A: Under U.S. law, we would refuse to issue a visa, since the application is incomplete. However, if the applicant later decides to be fingerprinted, their visa application would be reconsidered. The applicant would not be required to pay a new fee so long as he or she reapplies within one year of the initial application date.

  • Q: Who is required to undergo the new procedures? Do minors have to be fingerprinted?

    A: Applicants for a U.S. visa between the ages of 14 and 80 are required to be fingerprinted. We advise nonimmigrant visa applicants to make an appointment through the on-line appointment system at

  • Q: Why don't travelers from Visa Waiver countries have to be fingerprinted for a visa or at a U.S. port of entry?

    A: By September 30, 2004, visitors traveling under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) will be required to have their fingerprints scanned and digital photo taken when they arrive at U.S. ports of entry. Starting October 26, 2004, visitors from visa waiver countries must present either a machine-readable passport or a U.S. visa. All VWP travelers must present a passport that is not only machine-readable, but also has a biometric indicator if the passport is issued on or after October 26, 2005.

  • Q: What happens if the fingerprinting equipment fails? Are there alternative procedures?

    A: There will be back-up fingerprint machines in case we experience difficulties or one of the machines fails.

  • Q: What happens if you can't get a good fingerprint or if someone is missing fingers?

    A: There is a procedure for fingerprinting. We will start with the index fingers and then use the other fingers.

    We are required to use the index fingers for prints first. If an applicant has a condition on the index finger that would affect our ability to capture a print (for example, a blister or cut) the applicant will be asked to return once their index finger has healed.

  • Q: Who will have access to the information and fingerprints? What will it be used for?

    A: The electronic fingerprint records collected in the visa issuance process are available to immigration inspectors at the ports of entry for use in verifying the traveler's identity. The Department of Homeland Security maintains a database of individuals who have previously violated U.S. immigration law and may check the traveler's data against that database.

    The U.S. Department of State makes data available to U.S. law enforcement agencies that require the information for law enforcement purposes. Visa records are, by law, confidential. Requests for access to visa records by law enforcement are limited by statutory, regulatory and other legal restrictions.

  • Q: No other county requires this kind of personal data to get a visa. How can we be sure that the information will not be misused? What kind of security measures do you have for protecting our personal data?

    A: The information will only be used by U.S. State Department and law enforcement officials. Only authorized officials will have access to the data, and only for official business on a need-to-know basis. Careful safeguards will ensure that the data is not used or accessed improperly.

    Visa records are, by law, confidential. Requests for access to visa records by law enforcement are subject to statutory, regulatory and other legal restrictions.

  • Q: Could I have fingerprints taken somewhere else and provide them?

    A: No. The fingerprints must be taken at the American Institute in Taiwan as part of the visa application process.

  • Q: Are there any future plans to collect additional biometric information?

    A: We are always working to make travel documents as secure as possible to ensure the safety of the U.S. and visitors to the U.S. Visa policies are designed to maximize security of the United States while encouraging legitimate visitors to visit the U.S.

    The State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Institute of Standards and Technology will continue to work together to identify what biometrics are appropriate for use in travel documents.

  • Q: Why do people in Taiwan have to go through all of this for U.S. security?

    A: One of the reasons for collecting biometric information is to make travel more secure for the visa holder. Biometrics collected abroad are checked at the ports of entry to verify that the person traveling with the visa is the same person who was issued the visa.

    Biometrics will enhance existing screening processes that identify individuals who might be terrorists, criminals, or others who might represent a security risk to the U.S. Proper identification of such individuals ensures the safety of legitimate travelers and strengthens the security of the U.S.

  • Q: Is the U.S. pressuring other countries to adopt similar measures?

    A: No. We are, however working with Visa Waiver Countries on the inclusion of biometrics in their passports.

  • Q: Are you concerned that these new measures will affect the numbers of tourists, students, etc. going to the U.S.?

    A: These new measures will cause minimal disruption. The U.S. continues to welcome visitors and students to the United States. We are determined to preserve the crucial benefits provided by international visitors to the United States as we work to strengthen the security of the visa process. We are working to make the changes to the visa process as transparent and non-intrusive as possible. Visa policies are designed to maximize security of the United States while encouraging legitimate visitors to come to this country.

  • Q: How does the whole process work?

    A: The fingerprint scanner will be set up on the applicant side of the window. The applicant will place first his or her left index finger on the scanner, followed by his or her right index finger. Software will tell the consular officer whether the fingerprint has been captured correctly. To view a sample fingerprinting, please visit out website at

  • Q: Will the machinery be disinfected regularly to prevent the spread of diseases like SARS?

    A: The fingerprint machine will be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis.

  • Q: Since you are requiring all these new procedures of the applicant, what are you doing to improve customer service?

    A: Earlier this year, the American Institute in Taiwan instituted remote data entry through the Atos Origin Application Processing Center (APC). The APC has resulted in even better, faster service for our customers. The institution of the biometric system will not change current visa application procedures, and we will make the new process as smooth and quick as possible.

  • Q: How can I get information on applying for a visa from the American Institute in Taiwan?

    A: We suggest you check our website at