Mecca, Asharq al-Awsat- The Saudi Arabian Passport Department has revealed that the fourth and final stage of its fingerprinting program is set to begin in April. This stage of the fingerprinting program – which aims to establish a fingerprint database of foreign nationals working Saudi Arabia – will see all foreign nationals wishing to renew their residency have their identification verified through fingerprinting. The fingerprinting program began two years ago, and has undergone three previous stages prior to the implementation of the forthcoming fourth stage of the project. Security sources assured Asharq Al-Awsat that the fingerprinting program will prevent security violations and will benefit Saudi citizens.
According to Director of the Passports Department Major General Salim Bin Mohammed al-Balaihid, the fingerprinting program will be used in the process of renewing residency permits from April, and that residency will only be renewed after foreign residents’ fingerprints have been authenticated.
The Director of the Passport Department added that the forthcoming “fourth stage” will see the fingerprinting program tied to all services provided to long-term foreign residents of Saudi Arabia. He said “this huge step will reap rewards for the [foreign] residents and the citizens, and it will protect their rights and prevent any possibility of information tampering.”
Director of Information and Media at the Passport Department, Badr Malik, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the implementation of the fingerprinting system began almost two years ago. The first stage was to link the fingerprinting system to the airports, sea ports and land crossings, on the basis that any foreign national entering for work or a visit…so that their fingerprints are present in the system. This also means that workers need not be issued with identification cards or proof of employment, and that their employment status is known when they enter or leave the country.”
Badr Malik also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the fingerprinting system being utilized in the process of renewing residency represents the fourth and final stage of this project, and that after this stage beings implementation in April no foreign resident will able to apply for residency without fingerprint authentication. He said that this is something that would simplify all procedures for foreign residents in Saudi Arabia. Malik added “sites at departments of immigration throughout Saudi Arabia have been allocated [to fingerprint foreign nationals], in addition to external locations, and mobile vans are visiting large companies [for this purpose].”
As for the benefits of the fingerprint program, Malik said “this is of great benefit to the citizens and foreign residents [of Saudi Arabia], for nobody in the world is able to counterfeit fingerprints, therefore this will put an end to identify theft.” He also told Asharq Al-Awsat that foreign residents’ information will now be easily and readily available [to the authorities] through fingerprinting, and that fingerprinting in conjunction with traditional identification documents, will serve to strengthen security verification.
Malik added “this will also have a direct effect on [Saudi] citizens, with regards to the security situation, as fingerprinting is akin to an identity card for foreign residents, and if any individual is arrested his fingerprints will immediately reveal his identity and his employment information, and we will be able to access this information in an expeditious manner.”
Badr Malik also told Asharq Al-Awsat “Everything connected to the fingerprinting operation on 1 April in accordance with the instructions of Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior.”