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Biometrics the future- Saudi Visas


With the application process for visas to the Saudi Kingdom now requiring applicants to undergo biometric finger printing, many community members have expressed concerns over lack information on what the process entails. Two weeks ago, the South African Haj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) announced it would be mandatory for all travellers to the Kingdom to have biometric fingerprints and facial recognition testing done before their trip.

Speaking to VOC Breakfast Beat on Monday, Greg Sarrail, the vice-president of Solutions Business Development at Lumidigm, Inc explained that biometric fingerprinting involved using electronic sensors to take individual characteristics from a fingerprint, which were unique to each individual.

“The device is a little bigger than a computer mouse, that plugs into a network, and the sensor basically takes your unique fingerprint data, and then encrypts that into what’s called a template,” he explained.

Sarrail noted the biometric finger print scanner provided an advantage in the sense that, it was the one mechanism that provided a good level of security, in terms of an individual’s identity.

“It is something that is with you at all points in time, you don’t have to remember a password. It can’t be used by somebody else, unlike a password which can be easily accessed by another person,” he said.

Biometric finger prints are already used in large parts of South Africa, particularly in the banking environment, and Sarrail expected it to become a more widespread phenomenon.

“It is used across the world, anywhere from transferring of funds, to making banking transactions at an ATM, to even logging into an individual’s PC,” he said.


Amongst the concerns raised about biometric fingerprinting was that it might be used as a method of tracking, effectively encroaching on an individual’s freedom of movement. However, Sarrail disagreed, admitting there were already numerous finger print databases existing today.


The new South African smart I.D card, which is currently being rolled out to the public, also features biometric data. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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