Fingerprinting under migration and asylum law

Fingerprints constitute a unique biometric descriptor which may help to identify a certain person and associate them with data potentially stored by the state they are entering or another EU Member State. The fingerprints of migrants and asylum seekers are therefore collected through various procedures.

Children are not excluded from this procedure. The age at which children must give their fingerprints in migration or asylum-related procedures varies. EU legislation lays down different age thresholds depending on the procedure concerned (e.g. an application for a residence permit, a Schengen visa, etc.). Nevertheless, since fingerprints evolve over time, authorities doubt the reliability of this method regarding children.

Taking children’s fingerprints could also be a challenging task in terms of fundamental human rights. FRA's report on 'Age assessment and fingerprinting of children in asylum procedures' deals extensively with this topic. FRA research also considers the age at which different EU Member States require the fingerprints of children in criminal justice procedures.

Key aspects

Visas and entering the EU for a short stay

Collected fingerprints are stored in the Visa Information System (VIS). The Visa Code requests fingerprinting applicants for a visa from the age of 12 years, and the same minimum age requirement will also apply for children entering the EU for a short stay under the Entry/Exit System (EES). This rule is directly applied by all Schengen Member States.

Procedures for international protection or children in irregular situation

Eurodac, the EU fingerprint database for asylum seekers and irregular border-crossers, includes fingerprints of children who apply for asylum and who are apprehended at the external border of the EU. According to the proposal for a recast Eurodac Regulation, those apprehended within the territory of the Member States will also be included. The current Eurodac Regulation sets out the minimum age for fingerprinting at 14 years, whereas the proposal for a recast Eurodac Regulation lowers the minimum age to six. This rule is directly applied across EU Member States. For national purposes, however, fingerprints of younger children are also collected, but not included in Eurodac. Denmark for instance, takes fingerprints of unaccompanied children at the age of six years, whilst other Member States (such as Slovakia) at the age of 10 years.

Residence permits

The Regulation on the uniform format for residence permits for third-country nationals provides for fingerprinting children who are at least six years of age. Fingerprints collected for residence permits are not stored in an EU-wide searchable database. Some EU Member States include these only in the residence permit, whereas others store them in national databases.