The Foreign Ministry said yesterday it has signed contracts with specialized international companies to set up biometric centers for providing visa services to prospective visitors to the Kingdom, including pilgrims.
Assistant Foreign Minister Prince Khaled bin Saud said the first such centers would be established in the UAE, S. Korea and Germany on an experimental basis. “The UAE center will be opened by the end of this month,” he added.
The move comes after the Cabinet announced last November the government’s plan to take fingerprints and other biometrics of foreigners visiting the country, through specialized agents. Prince Khaled said the new system would help speed up entry procedures of visitors, especially for the millions of pilgrims, reducing their waiting times at airports and other entry points.
“It will also enable authorities to know those foreigners who have been banned from entering the Kingdom before issuing new visas as well as to identify fake visa applicants,” he said.
The new measure will not be applied to people holding diplomatic and special passports, Prince Khaled said. The move has been welcomed by Saudis and expatriates. “It’s a good system. It will help speed up immigration procedures at airports,” said Professor Mohammed Abdussalam of King Abdulaziz University’s Faculty of Engineering. “Right now I am in the US and enjoyed the system’s benefits as I was able to get out of airport within no time,” he told Arab News. “The system will help prevent bad people from entering the Kingdom.”
P.A. Abdul Rahman, director of Fayeda Travel Agency, said many countries have successfully implemented the system, adding that it would make the lives of travelers much easier. It will help security agents to track down criminals quickly. The biometrics will also help quick identification of pilgrims and other foreigners following deaths or accidents, he added.