13th Dec 2018

Fingerprints required in new EU passports

EU citizens will be obliged to have their fingerprints in their passports in the future.

Member states on Tuesday (26 October) agreed at a meeting in Luxembourg that a second biometric identifier, fingerprints, must be included in all new passports and other travel documents.

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This follows a decision in June where member states decided that EU passports must include facial images.

The aim is to make passports and other travel documents more secure and establish a more reliable link between them and the holder.

The biometric data gathered will be stored on a "chip" embedded in the new passports, Personal details and the biometric data will be held on national databases and on a EU-wide database of European Register for issued passports - the latter will be on the Schengen Information System (SIS II) and be accessible by law enforcement agencies, according to Statewatch.

While fingerprints will be obligatory in new passports 3 years after the technical specifications are in place, facial images will be required 18 months after adoption of the regulation.

The UK, Denmark and Ireland have a "legal exemption" in the EU treaties regarding this area of judicial co-operation and are not bound to follow the regulation.

Denmark – together with Germany - has however indicated that it intends to start issuing biometrically enhanced passports from the end of 2005 in order to comply with the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the requirements of the US Visa Waiver legislation.

Finland and Austria have tabled technical reservations to the regulation, but the problems are expected to be overcome.

Since 1 May, these type of decisions are subject to qualified majority voting in the Council - in co-decision with the European Parliament.

The five biggest EU countries said in a statement at the end of talks earlier this month that they hoped to introduce fingerprint measures for passports issued in their countries from 2006.

The US has said it will start demanding visas from 27 countries - mostly European states - from 26 October 2005 if they do not have biometric data on their passports.

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