Following a rule change to take effect on September 1, seniors over the age of 70 will no longer have to provide fingerprints when applying for a new Estonian national ID card. This measure is expected to slash current lengthy wait times for at-home fingerprinting services.
Earlier this week, author Imbi Paju spoke with ERR's radio news about how her more than 90-year-old parents have now gone more than a month without valid IDs. Under EU regulations, anyone applying for a new ID card must provide their fingerprints, but Paju's parents are for health reasons unable to make the trip to the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) service office in person to do so. Nonetheless, they had to wait two months for the official who could come take their prints at their home.
Starting September 1, a rule change will take effect in Estonia according to which seniors over 70 will no longer have to repeatedly provide their fingerprints when renewing their IDs. This in turn should simplify the renewal process for older people and those with mobility issues, Elen Kraavik, adviser at the Ministry of the Interior's Border Guard and Migration Policy Department, told ERR.
"We've otherwise developed very convenient solutions for applying [for IDs] via self-service — you can take your own photo — but indeed there wasn't any sort of measure regarding fingerprints," Kraavik acknowledged.
"So we found a solution, which we also coordinated with the European Commission, according to which someone over 70, if they've previously provided their fingerprints, won't have to renew them anymore," she explained.
If for some reason someone over 70 has never previously provided their fingerprints to the state, however, they will still be required to do so when applying for an ID card, whether at a service office or at home, even after September 1, the adviser added.
"If, for example, they've never applied for a biometric passport before, they'll still have to provide those prints one time," she explained. "We'll save them in our database, and in the future we can reuse this data."
According to Kraavik, the new rule change should also help shorten wait times for access to at-home fingerprinting services.
Efforts are also currently underway to simplify the application, renewal and issuing process for identity documents for everyone. For example, the state plans on relocating fingerprinting kiosks from PPA service offices to public spaces. Nonetheless, it's too soon to say when and where exactly they may be relocated.
"We have a project; it's a work in progress, and development is underway," the ministry official said. "We're looking at how and where exactly it would be possible to install these kiosks, because this process has to be in a secure environment as well."
Since the latter half of 2021, fingerprints have been included on the chips of Estonian ID cards, similarly to passports. Those unable to provide fingerprints in person at a PPA service office for health reasons can request at-home fingerprinting service, however in some cases, wait times can stretch into months.
A regulation was adopted at the EU level in 2019 requiring biometrics on ID cards as well starting in the second half of 2021. The purpose of this regulation is to better ensure safety and security via more effective identity verification. The state collects prints under this regulation from everyone age 12 and up.
Editor: Aili Vahtla