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Residence permits to go biometric

The Swiss government on Wednesday approved a move to include biometric data in foreigners' residence permits.

The permits are to be fitted with a data chip containing a digitalised photo and two fingerprints.

The information will be stored in the central migration information system for a period of five years and will be available only to the authorities in charge of monitoring residence permits.

The inclusion of biometric data is a consequence of Switzerland’s membership of the Schengen agreement, which allows freedom of movement between 25 countries in mainland Europe.

Residence permits issued to foreigners must meet the same strict technical criteria in all member countries. Swiss permits must conform by May 20, 2011.

The switch to biometric permits will require a change in the law. Swiss voters already approved the introduction of biometric passports by a very slim margin in May 2009.

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