State to Foreign Visitors: Gimme 10

The State Department today issued its final rule requiring anyone applying for a U.S. visa to provide 10 electronically scanned fingerprints instead of the two it previously required.

The State Department began last month delivering the fingerprint scan systems to all visa issuing posts and expects to complete roll out of the hardware by the end of this year as part of its Biometric Visa program.

In March, Tony Edson, deputy assistant secretary of State for Visa Services, told the Senate Subcommittee on Interstate Commerce, Trade and Tourism that 10 fingerprints provide a greater number of data points and more accurate identification than the two fingerprint system.

Edson added that two fingerprint scans provide a limited amount of data, and yield a large number of “false positive” results, which can delay the visa process and inconvenience legitimate travelers.

James Ziglar, president of Cross Match Technologies, the company that is providing the department with the fingerprint scanning gizmos, told Tech Insider that it will not take any longer to scan 10 fingerprints than two fingerprints â€" about 15 seconds â€" thanks to improvements in the underlying software.

That may not provide much solace to foreign visitors to the United States, who view the fingerprinting process as an intrusion on their privacy. Thomas Hartung, editor of German travel magazine Travel One told the Los Angeles Times last month that he did not know of any other country that requires a 10 fingerprint scan and asked, "How would you feel as an American if you came to Germany and the first thing you were asked is to give all 10 fingerprints?"

Ziglar said his company has already delivered 200 of its 10 fingerprint scanners to the State Department, has another 400 on order and expects more. Edson said the department tested the 10 fingerprint scanners this year in London; San Salvador; Riyadh and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia; and Asuncion, Paraguay.