Government plans to digitise visa applications

UK Visas and Immigration indicates need to capture biometrics and run identity checks

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has outlined plans for the digitisation of its visa application process through an outsourcing deal with a technology supplier.

UK border signIt has begun a procurement for a deal estimated at £91 million and to run for at least three years, possibly with a two-year extension, for a supplier to provide the front end services, including identity checks, the capture of biometrics, digitisation of supporting evidence and secure submission of all data.

A Home Office spokesperson, said: "UKVI has a significant programme of transformation underway to enhance the level of service our customers experience. A key part of this transformation is changing how customers apply and provide their biometrics, documentation and additional evidence.

"The Front End Service (FES) project will begin to align the customer experience of overseas customers, with customers applying in the UK to enable UKVI to provide a streamlined customer service experience while meeting customer demand.”

The supplier for the service will be expected to provide all the premises, people, hardware and software, and ensure integration with the authority’s systems in line with Government Digital Service standards.

The contract notice says that UKVI – under the umbrella of the Home Office – is aiming to “to move, where appropriate, to a self-service, digital experience for all parts of the application process”.

There are plans for capturing applicants’ biometrics – with no further detail so far on which type – along with the supplier checking digitised identity documents.

Revenue possibility

It also believes there is scope for a generate revenue, indicated by the fact that it includes value added services along with core and priority services in the scope of the procurement.

The possibility to raise extra money could come from functions such as providing a priority service to some customers and variations on how the process works.

Under current arrangements it is possible to make the initial application for a UK visa through GOV.UK, but it then requires an appointment at a visa application centre. It is not yet clear how much the new process would rely on interviews, but the tender document emphasises a move to self-service and refers to the potential to develop systems for remote interviews.

This follows the news in the past few days that the Border Force, another agency of the Home Office, is planning to drop the requirement for non-European visitors to fill in landing cards, shifting the emphasis to digital checks on a number of databases.

Image by Fox Wu, CC BY 2.0 through flickr