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Saudi visitors told to get biometric visas

First Posted 17:52:00 07/01/2009

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MANILA, Philippines?Saudi Arabia has already begun fingerprinting and taking digital full-face photos of foreigners coming to the kingdom on a visit, for a pilgrimage to Mecca, and for work, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Wednesday.

Here in the Philippines, Filipinos applying for a visa with the embassy of Saudi Arabia will have to undergo fingerprinting and full-face digital photographs starting next year.

The Saudi embassy here told the DFA that the new process aims to strengthen its security, prevent identity theft, and combat terrorism.

The initiative came from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which on June 24 called for tenders from specialized international firms to set up a network of centers to provide biometric services to people applying for visas to the kingdom.

No exact date for introducing the new system for visa issuance was given.

The policy has caused long queues at airports and other entry points for foreign passengers who must have their fingerprints and full-face photos taken, and the new biometric system is expected get rid of these long queues and delays at airports.

The kingdom?s passport department thus urged all foreign workers to get their biometric data registered as soon as possible so that they can avoid snags in getting their re-entry visas stamped on time.

Applicants are advised not to have any decoration (such as henna), cuts, or bruises on their face, or any cuts or other markings on their fingertips.

The passport department said members of the families of Iqama holders need not be fingerprinted unless those family workers are also workers.

The three fingerprinting centers in Jeddah are in Dalah Street in Rehab District, Saudi Oger Company in the Corniche District, and Abruq Al-Raghama District. Each center can serve 2,000 people every day.

The fingerprinting centers work in two shifts: from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mobile fingerprinting centers will also be sent to hospitals and large companies that have over 600 foreign workers.

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