U.S.-bound Filipinos Now Required to Submit to Fingerprint Scan

Filipinos applying for an immigrant visa to the United States will be required to undergo a fingerprint scan at the time of their interview starting today (Sept. 7), the embassy in Manila said yesterday.

The move is in line with the US Department of Homeland Security's "secure borders, open doors" policy adopted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks in the US, the embassy said.

"Beginning Sept. 7, all immigrant visa applicants between the ages of 14 and 79 are required to be fingerprint-scanned at the time of the visa interview. Individuals with currently valid US visas do not have to come to the embassy to have their fingerprints scanned until the visa expires and they wish to apply for a new one," the embassy said.

Fingerprint scans will also be conducted on nonimmigrant visa applicants starting Sept. 14

The US embassy said only diplomatic or government representatives traveling on official business will be exempted from the biometric scan.

The new identification requirement is part of the US Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002.

The fingerprint scan will verify the identity of visa applicants. It is aimed at stopping the use of stolen and counterfeit visas as well as protecting US borders against terrorists.

The embassy noted that the fingerprint scans of the applicants' two index fingers will be stored in a database that will be made available at US ports of entry to DHS immigration inspectors.

It stressed that any visa applicant who refuses to be fingerprinted will have his or her visa application denied on the basis that it is incomplete. However, an applicant who will later decide to provide fingerprints will have his or her visa application "reconsidered without prejudice." Joyce Pangco Panares .