New Delhi: The Indian government is poised to introduce biometric-based identification of foreign nationals seeking employment visas, following the practice in the US and the UK.
This is part of the overhaul of the regulatory structure governing foreign workers that the government has initiated over the last few months.
“The system will provide us real time and authentic information about foreign nationals coming for work to India,” a high-ranking government official told Mint on condition of anonymity. “Work has been started, but it will take some time before it is launched.”
The government’s response comes at a time when the country has begun to attract foreign workers in several service sectors in the economy, a trend that’s expected to strengthen. As on 31 December 2008, home ministry records show that 20,394 foreigners were registered as employees.
The initiative is part of the government’s ambitious Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Registration and Tracking project, the core objective of which is to develop and implement a secure and integrated service delivery framework that facilitates legitimate travellers while strengthening security.
According to a senior home ministry official, the biometric identification system is one of the mission mode projects cleared by the cabinet committee on economic affairs two months ago. The biometric project will be implemented in phases and completed by September 2014.
The total project cost is approximately Rs1,011 crore, of which Rs132 crore is to be spent in phase I, which started in April and is expected to end in June 2011. The remaining Rs879 crore has been earmarked for phase II (July 2011-September 2014).
The programme, which will be heavily dependent on information technology (IT), has also opened up a potential business opportunity three-four times the current government outlay for the project, say experts.
“While IT players will benefit from government funding, they will also benefit from spending of various other players in the value chain, who will enhance their processes and systems to make it compatible with the new requirement,” said Sivarama Krishnan, executive director of audit and consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The project encompasses 169 missions, 78 immigration checkposts, seven foreigners regional registration offices, and foreigners registration offices at state or district headquarters.
The move will also help keep a check on illegal immigration into the country, said an e-governance expert, who did not want to be identified.
According to figures available with the home ministry, 7,426 foreigners were arrested in 2008 for various violations of the Foreigners Act and provisions of other immigration control rules and regulations. Foreigners deported in the same year numbered 13,995, according to the home ministry data.