Biometric database

Consulates of the European Union countries have started to issue biometric visas for visits to the Schengen region, using fingerprint recognition as part of the registration process

Consulates of the European Union countries have started to issue biometric visas for visits to the Schengen region, using fingerprint recognition as part of the registration process. The visa is valid for five years, but with each entry to a Schengen state, border guards will scan fingerprints, verifying them with the visa record.

At Brest border checkpoint

At the Brest border, the innovation has not yet caused a backlog of traffic, though the first tourists have already felt some slight discomfort. On a normal working day, the Brest checkpoint is almost empty. At the entrance to passport control there are hardly more than 30 vehicles. All the passengers are travelling to Poland on ordinary visas, which they received before the new measures obliged people to have their fingerprints taken. The Head of Public Relations for Brest Border Guards, Alexander Kislov, explains that the European initiative does not concern our side of the border, as the Belarusian checkpoint is concerned with passports, rather than visas, “There are no delays, we process between 7,000 to 9,000 tourists around the clock, and from 1,500 to 2,000 vehicles in both directions. The presence of Schengen visas and their authenticity is checked by our Polish colleagues. It will soon become evident whether delays will be caused as a result of this new initiative.”

Fingerprint checking procedure
Fingerprint checking procedure

Having crossed our border, a tourist arrives on the Polish side. The procedure to verify fingerprints follows: visitors put both left and right palms onto the device, whilst a border guard checks whether the fingerprints correspond to those in the database of the VIS system (visa information system).

During the June press conference on the border crossing in Kuznica, Chief of Podlaskie Division of the Polish National Border Guard Service, Andrzej Rytwinski, said that scanning fingerprints at the border is extremely fast, the data reaches a single database in Strasbourg in 20 seconds. Polish border guards also use stationary scanners in boxes for registration, and portable devices checking a forefinger of the right hand. They carry mobile equipment with them to register passengers in trains or on buses.

Despite its planned efficiency, Brest tourists have already had to wait for a considerable time on the Polish side of the border. Travel agency director Svetlana Maisyuk-Dranko describes the situation, “Three people with new visas were traveling on our bus which was detained for an hour and a half because of failure of the equipment. The consulates however, are much quicker with the process, being more experienced. But I don’t see anything too difficult with it eventually, apart from a short wait.”

The head of another agency, Sergey Suprunovich, says that his tourists who received new visas did not have any difficulties at the border. Buses are reaching the Schengen countries on time. The innovation has been well received in Poland’s Consulate in Brest. To begin with, there was a fear that the processing of visa application documents would increase, however, the scanning procedure appears to take only 2-3 minutes. Special scanners are installed near boxes for the acceptance of documents, and a consulate worker is present to supervise the process.

There is however, some inconvenience for those who wish to travel to a Schengen country that does not have consular representation in the region. For example, Brest residents wishing to get to Switzerland or the Czech Republic, even though their documents have been prepared by the tour operator, are obliged to go personally for fingerprinting to Minsk, rather than the travel agency being able to complete all the necessary paperwork as previously.

By Alexander Mityukov
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