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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

Waivers of Fingerprinting Under the BIOVISA Program


UNCLASSIFIED   STATE   00191641
R 172216Z OCT 05
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO ALL DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR POSTS COLLECTIVE

SUBJECT: WAIVERS OF FINGERPRINTING UNDER THE BIOVISA PROGRAM
REF: 04 STATE 141510

1.  Summary:  Under the Biometric Visa Program there is a
strict standard for waiver of fingerprinting of a visa
applicant.  The fingerprinting may be waived only in the
case of a person traveling to the United States for
medical treatment who, due to a medical condition, is
physically unable to appear at post.  There are absolutely
no other individual waivers from fingerprinting, although
there are limited class exemptions.  Supervisory consular
officers must check on a daily basis to ensure that no
unauthorized fingerprint waivers were granted.  Failure to
comply with the fingerprinting requirement should be
considered in a consular officer's performance evaluation.
(Note that fingerprint "waivers" are granted to individual
visa applicants, while fingerprint "exemptions" are
granted for classes of visa applicants, such as government
officials applying for A-1 or A-2 visas.)  End summary.

FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF BIOVISA PROGRAM
------------------------------------
2.  The Biometric Visa (BioVisa) Program officially went
into effect on October 26, 2004.  As we approach the first
anniversary of the BioVisa Program, we may all be proud of
the tremendous effort that consular officers have put into
making it a success.  By collecting fingerprints with visa
applications and checking them against the IDENT
watchlist, we are preventing many ineligible applicants
from obtaining visas.  By storing the visa applicant's
fingerprints in IDENT so that biometric identity
verification may be performed at ports of entry, we are
preventing visa fraud.  Your efforts under the BioVisa
Program have greatly enhanced the integrity of the U.S.
visa.

BIOVISA PROGRAM MUST MAINTAIN STRICT COMPLIANCE STANDARD
--------------------------------------------------------
3.  It is an axiom of the BioVisa Program that consular
officers may not waive fingerprints except for those
traveling to the United States for medical treatment who,
due to a medical condition, are physically unable to
appear at post.  We realize posts may be under pressures
to waive the fingerprint requirement for other reasons,
but you may not do so.  There is no waiver of the
fingerprint requirement except in a medevac situation.
Maintaining a strict standard of compliance for
fingerprinting visa applicants serves to protect posts
from pressure to waive the requirement.

SUPERVISORY CONSULAR OFFICERS TO MONITOR COMPLIANCE
---------------------------------------------------
4.  In order to facilitate monitoring of the
fingerprinting requirement, we are adding a report to the
Consular Consolidated Database (CCD) for supervisory
consular officers that will allow them to review on a
daily basis the cases at post in which fingerprints were
waived.  This report is found under the IDENT/US-
VISIT/IAFIS CCD tab and is called Waived Fingerprints
Report.  Upon receipt of this telegram, supervisory
consular officers must review this report daily.  This
report will also be reviewed in the Department.  Failure
by a consular officer to comply with the fingerprinting
requirement should be recorded by the supervisory consular
officer and should be considered in evaluating the
performance of the consular officer who made the
unauthorized waiver.

FINGERPRINTING CASE EXAMPLES
----------------------------
5.  The following are explanations of various
fingerprinting cases and how they should be handled.
NO HANDS -- If a person has no hands, obviously, the
person cannot be fingerprinted.  Although technically the
consular officer has to indicate in the NIV or IV system
that the fingerprints are being waived, this is not truly
considered a waiver.  In such cases, the consular officer
must state in the CCD notes that the applicant has no
hands.

PARALYTICS -- If a person's arms are paralyzed, some
discretion must be exercised.  If a person accompanying
the applicant can assist with the fingerprinting, the
fingerprinting may be undertaken.  However, if the person
is severely physically handicapped to the extent that
fingerprinting would not be possible to accomplish, then
this should be considered in the category of the person
with no hands, in that fingerprinting is physically not
possible.  This should be noted in the CCD.

BURNED FINGERS -- If a person has burn scars on all
fingers so that no fingerprints may be captured, this is
another case in which fingerprinting is not physically
possible, but is not considered a waiver.  This should be
noted in the visa case file.

ONE HAND -- If a person has one hand, the index finger and
the thumb of that hand should be printed.

PERMANENT ABNORMAL FINGER -- If an abnormal condition,
such as a growth on the finger, is permanent, the
applicant would need to present a statement from a doctor
attesting to the permanency of the condition.  In such a
case, if a good quality print cannot be obtained from the
index finger, the thumb should be printed instead.

CUT ON AN INDEX FINGER -- If an applicant has a cut or a
boil or any other temporary condition on an index finger,
the applicant must be refused 221g and told to return when
the condition is healed and the finger can be printed.

THE ELDERLY -- Only at age 80 and above are visa
applicants exempt from fingerprinting.  Posts have no
authority to waive the fingerprinting for applicants under
age 80 and must not make any such unauthorized waivers.

REASON FOR STRICT COMPLIANCE STANDARD
-------------------------------------
6.  The IDENT watchlist includes fingerprints of known or
suspected terrorists, of wanted persons, of immigration
law violators, and of some persons with criminal history
records in the United States.  Persons whose fingerprints
are on the IDENT watchlist are often aware of this and may
try means such as cutting their fingers to avoid
detection.  The IDENT watchlist is based on index
fingerprints; if only one of two index fingers are
captured for a person whose prints are on the watchlist,
this decreases the possibility of a match.  If a post has
reason to suspect that an applicant has purposely damaged
both index fingers -- for example, if both index
fingertips are burned, but there are no other such burns
on the hands -- the applicant should be required to submit
10 fingerprints for a clearance through the FBI.

FINGERPRINTS MUST BE COLLECTED IN REFUSAL CASES
-----------------------------------------------
7.  Fingerprints must be collected from all applicants,
including those whose visas applications are refused.
This helps ensure that any refused applicant who later
attempts to apply again under another identity will be
unmasked through the IDENT check.  There have been cases
in which previous refusals were identified through the
fingerprints alone.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WAIVER AND EXEMPTION
---------------------------------------
8.  Fingerprinting exemptions are granted for classes of
applicants, such as government officials applying for A-1
or A-2 visas to conduct official business in the United
States, while fingerprinting waivers are granted for
individuals.  Posts should note that a fingerprinting
exemption is tied to the type of visa (for example, A-1 or
A-2), which is based on the purpose of the visit (official
government business).  The fingerprinting exemption does
not apply to diplomats or other government officials
applying for other types of visas; for example, a diplomat
applying for a tourist visa is not exempt from
fingerprinting.  Thus, if a high-ranking government
official wishes to travel to the United States for tourism
only and is applying for a tourist visa, he or she must be
fingerprinted without exception.  The fingerprinting
exemption does not apply to applicants for A-3 or G-5
visas under any circumstances.  See Reftel for full list
of classes exempt from fingerprinting.

RICE



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