India moves towards paperless immigration

India is drawing up a list of trusted travellers who will not have to provide immigration details and fill forms to go abroad. It would set up an automated border control (ABC) mechanism, a replica of the US global entry programme but tailored to suit Indian needs, at international airports, said officials.

The decision was made after the US offered to include India in its trusted travellers programme during the recent visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

After the visit, a proposal was mooted by the Bureau of Immigration in conjunction with worldwide global travel practices. It was discussed with the ministry of home affairs and civil aviation authorities at a meeting to finalise modalities for what will be referred to as e-gate or ABC. However, if the US is too intrusive the list may not be shared with it, it was suggested at the meeting.

The facility will initially help trusted travellers and will be later extended to others. The first list would comprise people with official and diplomatic passports, the officials said. In the first phase, the facility will also be extended to businessmen who are frequent fliers and eminent personalities. Later, diplomats of other countries will be allowed paperless immigration on a reciprocal basis, said officials.

The government plans to charge a registration fee for the facility but is yet to decide if it will be one time or per trip.

The US programme requires one to apply online and schedule an interview with custom and border protection authorities, who determine eligibility. A fee has to be deposited before availing the benefit.

E-gate will have data of travellers and will be connected to Indian missions, which will provide the details under Immigration, Visa and Foreigner's Registration & Tracking. "A pre-authorisation will not only reduce hassles at the airport but will also not require a traveller to go through immigration checks. We are also planning to include biometric details of travellers, which will mean facial recognition or finger prints, in e-gate," a senior home ministry official said.

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