NEW UNIFORM FORMAT FOR VISAS
Draft Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No. 1683/95 laying down a uniform format for visas.
|Legal base:||Article 62(2)(b)(iii)EC; consultation; qualified majority of participating States
|Document originated:||9 October 2001
|Forwarded to the Council:||10 October 2001
|Deposited in Parliament:||25 October 2001
|Basis of consideration:||Minister's letter of 31 January 2002
|Previous Committee Report:||HC 152-xiv (2001-02), paragraph 3 (23 January 2002)
|To be discussed in Council:||February 2002
|Committee's assessment:||Politically important
|Committee's decision:||Cleared, but further information requested
10.1 This draft Regulation gives implementing powers
to the Uniform Format Visa Comitology Committee to adopt technical
measures for two purposes. The first, in the words of the Commission's
explanatory memorandum, is for "the integration of a photograph
produced according to high security standards, in order to establish
a more reliable link between the holder and the visa format".
The second is to allow the possibility of changing the colours
of the visa format "if an urgent need occurs to counteract
10.2 The proposal is in line with the Conclusions of
the Justice and Home Affairs Council of 20 September and the European
Council of 21 September which emphasised that the European Union
should take immediate action to improve the security standards
of travel documents.
10.3 When we considered the document in January, we were
surprised that, even after the 11 September terrorist attacks,
it was considered necessary to add a photograph to a visa which
was presumably attached to a passport already containing a photograph.
We asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home
Office (Angela Eagle) if she could justify the duplication, especially
as she had told us that it might result in an increase in visa
fees. We also ask her to explain why the UK decided to participate
in this measure.
The Minister's letter
10.4 The Minister has now responded, with a full explanation.
"The Commission's proposal aims to improve the existing security
standards of the uniform format visa (UFV) by introducing a highly
secure photograph into the uniform format visa to enable a link
to be made between the passport holder and the visa. This is considered
necessary as visas issued by EU Member States, including the UK,
are all in the form of a sticker placed in a passport. Even using
the best adhesives it is possible for the best forgers, using
various skilled forging techniques, to remove visas from passports,
alter or replace personal details of the holder and substitute
them into another document. As an alternative, the forger has
the option of dismantling the passport, removing the page with
the visa on it, altering or replacing the personal data and then
substituting it into another person's passport.
"Placing an image of the visa holder on to a visa vignette,
especially if it is done using technology, will make alteration
or removal of the image extremely difficult without the fraud
becoming readily apparent. This will greatly help in disrupting
forgery by substitution. It will also assist in verifying that
the person presenting the visa is the same as was seen by the
visa officer and is the rightful passport holder. This is now
of paramount importance as UK visas also confer leave to enter
on the holder, making the role of the immigration officer on arrival
primarily one of verification that the person presenting the visa
is the same as seen by the visa officer.
"We have said that the entry clearance operational running
costs would rise since the process for each visa issued would
include the scanning or taking of a photograph and its subsequent
manipulation. As part of the entry clearance full cost recovery
regime this could lead to an increase in visa fees. However, we
may be able to save resources elsewhere in the UK Immigration
Control through fewer fraudulent entry clearances being encountered.
I should add, however that any proposed increase in visa fees
is subject to separate parliamentary scrutiny through the House
of Commons Committee on Statutory Instruments."
10.5 In relation to our question about UK participation,
the Minister tells us:
"We have indicated that we will so far as possible participate
in cooperation to combat illegal immigration. The UK is
a leading player in the committee that sets security requirements
of the UFV. We play a prominent role within the EU in combating
document fraud detection. Furthermore, unless we produced documents
with similar specifications to the EU format models, the credibility
of the security of UK visas would be undermined if we had not
opted in to this proposal."
10.6 We thank the Minister for her helpful response.
While we accept her explanation, we think it regrettable that
a degree of duplication appears to be necessary, and hope that
every effort will be made to reduce this, without endangering
10.7 We clear the document, but ask the Minister:
(1) to confirm that all visas issued by EU Member States
are stuck into passports; and
(2) to give us an assessment of the cost involved in taking
and scanning a photograph for a visa and its subsequent manipulation.