Since December 2010, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has added more than 22,500 facial images and 19,800 sets of fingerprints to its biometrics database as part of its $69.4 million Biometrics in Offshore Visa Processing Program.
The development of the program allows visa applicants in other countries to have their biometric identification collected and compared against a shared international biometric database for immigration and security purposes, according to DIAC’s 2010-11 Annual Report.
“The collection of fingerprints and facial images improves the integrity of visa application processes, both from a national security and immigration fraud perspective,” says Jaci van Campenhout of the Offshore Biometrics Taskforce.
“This arrangement is consistent with the government’s commitment to strengthen border security, to improve visa processing and identity management procedures through the use of new technology and to leverage service delivery arrangements, where appropriate,” continued van Campenhout.
DIAC has outsourced the data collection to WorldBridge, a branch of CSC specialising in visa application technology, and VFS Global, an IT company assisting governments with their international technology requirements.
- A $10 million contract has been awarded to VF Worldwide Holdingsfor Application and Biometric Collection Services
- A $3 million has been awarded to CSC Australia, also for Application and Biometric Collection Services
Biometric data will be shared amongst the Five Country Conference (FCC), which includes Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and New Zealand. Formed in August 2009, the FCC is a multilateral co-operation forum created to address and counter immigration and border security issues. One of the initiatives of the forum was the creation of a biometric data-sharing arrangement.
The identity and biometric security of Australian travel documents will also be bolstered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). As identified in the Federal Budget, the Australian Passports Office (APO) is seeking to develop and increase its biometric capabilities, in order to counter the fraud exposure of genuine Australian passports.
In late September 2011, DFAT released a tender on behalf of the APO, announcing the $101 million Passport Redevelopment Program. The upgrade to the system will include a personal interview with passport applicants to capture facial image and signature data electronically.
Tenders are still open for the implementation of the system.
In addition to the DFAT’s passport issuance system upgrade, DIAC is also working with Customs and Border Protection to upgrade existing I-Authenticate fraudulent travel document detection scanners at all major international airports.
Already implemented at Cairns and Perth International Airports, the upgrade will deliver ePassport document reader capabilities, enabling faster security and identification checks for airline travellers.
Also underway in the biometrics space is the continuing installation of SmartGates at all major international airports within Australia. Using biometric facial recognition technology, SmartGate enables an automated visa and identity verification system for airline passengers, streamlining border processing.