UK implements fingerprint checks for visas applicants

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The United Kingdom rolled out a global system on 14 January 2007 to check the fingerprints of all visa applicants against UK databases.

The fingerprint system has gone live three months ahead of schedule in over 133 countries. The government claims that nearly 500 cases of identity swapping have been spotted.

According to the Border and Immigration Agency, more than 1,000,000 have had their fingerprints taken. Noting the accuracy of the system, they said about 10,000 visa applicants have been identified who have previously been fingerprinted in the UK in connection with immigration cases or asylum applications.

"The public wants stronger borders. They want us to shut down the causes of illegal immigration and hold newcomers to account, deporting rule breakers where necessary," Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said.

"They also want a compassionate system, which makes and enforces decisions fast when we have obligations to honour - and lets those we need contribute to Britain as long as they speak English, pay tax and obey the law," he added.

Talking Tough While Attracting the Best

While the UK has been talking tough about immigration lately, it's new points based system to be implemented in 2008 will not be a complete shutdown of the nation's borders. The Tier 1 system, under which such categories as highly skilled migrants, investors, and entrepreneurs can come to the UK if they score sufficient points based on various criteria specific to each category.

The Tier 1 General Highly Skilled Migrant category is very similar to the current Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP). The main difference is the removal of a provision which allowed easy points scoring for those with MBAs from top schools across the globe.

For other Tiers, English language requirements have been introduced in an effort to better integrate the nation's migrants into society and help their chances of finding work.

In addition, the government is considering changes to how marriage visas and short-term visas are handled.

Immigration authorities claim that the "biggest shake-up of the immigration system in its history" will allow the UK to continue to reap the benefits of migration, while preventing abuse of the system.