I was reading about Schengen visa requirements and have stumbled upon the following text in the Biometric Requirement Schengen Visa:

As of November 2, 2015 it is required that applicants for a Schengen visa type C ( Duration less than 90 days) will need to provide biometric data (fingerprints) when submitting an application. The biometric data of persons applying for a Schengen visa will be stored in a new Visa Information System (VIS).


Exemptions from the obligation of fingerprinting are provided for the following categories of applicants only:

  • Children under 12,
  • Persons for whom the collection of fingerprints is physically impossible;
  • Sovereigns and other senior members of a royal family, Heads of State and members of the national Governments (with their official delegations and spouses) if they travel for official purposes.

I can think of some reasons for the first category and can surely understand the reason for the second one. But why do royal family and members of national governments are not required to take fingerprints? Is it some sort of national security issue or just simplified process?

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    I think the usual phrase for this sort of thing is "diplomatic courtesy." Note "...if they travel for official purposes." – phoog Dec 21 '18 at 16:54
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    Also the purpose of fingerprinting is to establish someone's identity. This is not usually in doubt for members of royal families. – DJClayworth Dec 21 '18 at 18:47
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    I'm puzzled by the downvote. This is a perfectly reasonable question. – phoog Dec 22 '18 at 2:43
  • @DJClayworth: What, you can't impersonate a monarch? – Vikki Oct 9 '19 at 1:02

Why fingerprint visa applicants in general? You can check to see whether someone is using multiple identities; you can ensure a consistent identity for someone even if they have multiple citizenships and travel documents; you can check to see whether someone is on a watchlist of people suspected of crimes or security threats; and you can check to see whether someone has a past immigration history you need to be aware of.

None of those apply to royals and heads of state. If a head of state is traveling for official purposes, the details of their visit have already been coordinated between the involved governments. Heads of state don't just show up unannounced at the consulate or visa application center with an application; countries will have an office in the foreign ministry that arranges everything for official visits (e.g. for the US). You're not going to suddenly discover that they have a past overstay history or that there's a warrant out for their arrest and deny them a visa. Countries don't have a need to make absolutely sure that this Queen Elizabeth is really the same Queen Elizabeth that visited before.

In addition, royals and heads of state are generally considered very busy, and it would be uncourteous, if not downright rude, to require them to take the time to be fingerprinted when it serves no useful purpose. As phoog notes, diplomatic courtesy and protocol are important when governments interact, and imposing a fingerprint requirement would violate that for no real benefit.


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