Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has pressed the Government on challenges faced by Northern Isles residents needing to register biometrics for visas and other immigration issues. Pressed on the costs and time required for islanders to go south for biometrics, the Immigration Minister Kevin Foster suggested that progress was coming to reduce the need for in-person registration.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Carmichael said:
“The fees for immigration and nationality applications are not the only costs that are faced by people in my constituency. The Home Office has refused to offer the biometric enrolment process in Lerwick or in Kirkwall, because it says that there are not enough people there to justify the provision of the service.
“My constituents are required to go to Aberdeen or, on one occasion to travel on to Dundee to enrol their biometric information. Over and above the cost of the fee for enrolling biometrics, if someone lives in Shetland, they would have to get the 5 o’clock overnight ferry to Aberdeen. They leave at 5 pm on a Monday, and they are not back home until 7 am on the Wednesday. That is the actual commitment that is required. [Alternatively] they could take a day trip on a plane. The cost of that is £492.
“The Minister would not accept that for his constituents, so why does he seem to think that I should accept it for mine?”
Responding for the Government, Immigration Minister Kevin Foster MP said:
“The right hon. Member set out quite well exactly what a biometrics appointment can mean. We are looking to make a change. The first step is to look at increasing the amount of biometric reuse in our system. The second part is looking at how we can remotely capture biometrics from those who are making applications for the first time. The right hon. Member may wish to know that the vast majority of EEA nationals will be able to supply the biometrics using an app on their smartphone without visiting a visa application centre.”
Mr Carmichael followed up:
“In the meantime, can we not just get machines for enrolment and biometrics in Kirkwall and Lerwick?”
The Minister added:
“We are already allowing people to reuse biometrics, and we are looking to lay some regulations fairly soon. I would be very happy to arrange a briefing for the right hon. Member on where we are taking this work. We are hoping all EEA nationals applying into economic migration and study routes will soon be doing so, if they need to, from home. Again, this builds on what we have done with the EU settlement scheme. It is happening.”