Immigrant fingerprints checks introduced between Oz and New Zealand as part of fraud drive that will be extended to other countries

by Ray Clancy on August 25, 2010

New Zealand has started fingerprint checks with Australia as part of a biometric programme to strengthen border security and prevent identity fraud.

The scheme is expected to be expanded to include information with other countries including the UK, the US and Canada under what is known as the Five Country Conference (FCC).

Officials say that the system is very secure with the likelihood of security breaches low. The information includes photographs, fingerprints and iris scans which are collected routinely as part of the application for visas. Fingerprints of citizens will not be shared, just those of foreign nationals.

They say it will help fight fraud as it will identify people seeking entry to a country who have a criminal record or are using a false identity at an early stage.

‘Organised crime groups and illegal migrants are increasingly using identity and passport fraud to evade detection,’ said Arron Baker, Immigration New Zealand’s Programme Manager for Identity and Biometrics.

‘Biometrics uses technology to improve on traditional checks using names to detect and prevent these people from entering New Zealand. It is a fast, effective and privacy protecting way of quickly facilitating genuine clients while filtering out those who pose risks to New Zealand,’ added Baker.

Officials stressed that the fingerprints will not be shared with anyone outside the FCC agreement. New Zealand alone says it has some 47,000 fingerprints on a database that it will now begin to share.

Biometric identification is the confirmation of people’s identity by comparing unique physical features such as fingerprints, photographs and eye scans with a previously obtained image. Critics fear it will be the start of a massive global database.

Meanwhile a New Zealand scheme to attract wealthy immigrants to invest in business and create news has resulted in only a single approved application to date, despite widespread interest when the scheme was launched.

The Entrepreneur Plus immigration visa category aimed at attracting entrepreneurial migrants that invest a minimum of $500,000 into a new business and employ at least three full time workers has flopped. Some 12,000 people registered their interest in the scheme but only one applicant has been issued a conditional residence permit under the scheme and another declined.

New Zealand Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman said factors beyond the control of the government such as the global financial crisis and the difficulty for people to liquidate overseas assets have contributed to the result.

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