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UKBA to exchange fingerprints with US

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The UK Border Agency plans to start exchanging fingerprint data with the US, Canada and Australia in the near future

The organisation, which gained full executive agency status on 1 April 2009, says in a business plan issued on the same day that that it plans to work with the USA, Canada and Australia to "introduce a system of appropriate data protection arrangements for fingerprint checks and data sharing". This is intended to help identify and bar foreign criminals from entering the country, and is planned for "early 2009".

The agency said that by December 2008 it had enrolled more than 3.6m sets of fingerprints from visa applicants, finding more than 5,200 cases of identity swaps.

All visa applicants now have fingerprints taken, and since June 2008 these have been checked against the police's Ident1 national fingerprint database. Of the 800,000 checks on Ident1, there were 4,000 positive matches, some of which have found visa applicants who are wanted by the police.

The agency, which introduced identity cards for foreigners in 2008, says in the business plan that it will extend biometric identity cards for foreign nationals "to other high risk categories" during 2009. By 2011 all new applicants coming to the UK for more than six months, or extending their stay, will have to have a card.

There are also plans to open its National Border Targeting Centre in December, checking 60% of all international passenger movements, although the UKBA aims to have the centre ready for use in November. It expects to check 95% of movements by the end of 2010.

It says that between April and December 2008, the e-Borders system produced more than 10,000 alerts on passengers travelling internationally, leading to more than 920 arrests.

However, plans to include air and sea travel between the UK and Ireland within the e-Borders system suffered a setback as the House of Lords voted this week to remove a clause in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill that would have required British and Irish passengers to have a passport for such journeys. This is not currently necessary under the Common Travel Area arrangement between the two countries.

The business plan also says that in December the UKBA introduced the facility for staff to make checks against Interpol's Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database, which had been announced by the prime minister in July 2007.

It also expects to have automated gates, which allow European passport holders through border controls if a computerised system matches their face to the image in their passport, in 10 terminals by August 2009. Such gates are already in use at two terminals.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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