US to collect more biometric data from immigrants

Immigration applicants may have to submit iris scans, voice recordings and DNA samples.

The Trump administration plans to expand the types of biometric information that immigrants may need to submit with their applications, possibly including iris scans, voice recordings and DNA samples.

The proposed changes by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would also allow the government to require that biometric data be submitted with any sort of immigration application, including from US citizens who are sponsoring relatives from abroad to immigrate to the US.

Currently, immigrants applying for visas, green cards or other immigration benefits that require background checks must submit fingerprints and photographs along with their applications.

With the proposed changes, DHS said Wednesday it would modernize biometrics collection and authorize expanded use of biometrics beyond background checks to include identity verification, secure document production and records management.

The proposed rule improves the screening and vetting process and reduces dependence on paper documents and biographic information to prove identity and familial relationships, it said.

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DHS proposal includes a new standard definition of “biometrics” for its components and authorized purposes for collecting biometrics. This proposed rule would create clear rules for using the information collected, it said.

DHS said these proposals would move it and its components toward more consistent identity verification and information management.

“This proposed rule eliminates any ambiguity surrounding the Department’s use of biometrics, setting clear standards for how and why we collect and use this information,” said the acting Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli.

“Leveraging readily available technology to verify the identity of an individual we are screening is responsible governing. The collection of biometric information also guards against identity theft and thwarts fraudsters who are not who they claim to be.”

The proposed rule would authorize biometrics collection for identity verification in addition to new techniques, DHS said.

ALSO READ: DHS to introduce biometric system to cut visa overstays (May 26, 2017)

Voice, iris and facial recognition technologies are fast, accurate ways to confirm the identity of an applicant that don’t require physical contact, it said.

The proposed rule also authorizes DHS to collect DNA or DNA test results to verify a claimed genetic relationship when the applicant or petitioner is unable to provide sufficient documentary evidence to establish the claimed relationship.

Using DNA or DNA test results to help establish “family units” would help petitioners and DHS verify claims of genetic relationships and keep adults who are in custody from misrepresenting themselves as biological parents of minors who are not related to them, it said.

DHS said by using DNA or DNA tests to establish bona fide genetic relationship between adults and minors in DHS custody, it can better protect the well-being of children.

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