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News

Biometric checks cut UK visa issuing time and cost.

Software AG : 12 March, 2008  (Application Story)
Visa issuing process at UK missions throughout the world reduced significantly with improved biometric identity checking process.
UKvisas, a joint Directorate of the Home Office and Foreign & Commonwealth Office, has cut the time it takes for visa applicants to have their identities checked against previous visa applications and immigration history by around two days. This has been achieved using the combined services of PA Consulting Group and Software AG's service-oriented architecture (SOA) technologies.

From January 1st, biometrics have been collected in all of the UK's 150+ visa issuing posts across the world (10 finger scans and a digital photograph) of all applicants for a UK visa. Once an application is made, the SOA-based system ensures that the biometric data can be compared in real time - less than 30 minutes - with information held in the UK. This helps officials determine which application should be successful and which should not.

Software AG's solution, procured through Computacenter, will cope with expansion, as UKvisas anticipates that the number of applications that require biometric checks will rise by 10 per cent per annum year on year. PA Consulting Group was appointed to manage, design and deliver this project.

"We had to increase the accuracy of our immigration decisions, as well as ensure visa application turnaround time met our public service agreement (PSA) targets," said Tony Mercer, Network Operations Director at UKvisas.

"Checking biometrics by email with the manual processes involved was incapable of scaling to meet the exacting requirements of the Home Office. We can now continue to meet PSA targets on visa turnaround time worldwide through our real-time link specified by PA Consulting Group and delivered by Software AG, without compromising the increasingly rigorous checks on identity that are essential in these times of heightened security. There has been a controlled global roll-out, and by the end of November 2007, we had successfully enrolled our 1,000,000th applicant using this system."

Accuracy of immigration checks is critical for Government efficiency, as well as for national security. The average cost of deportation is estimated by the National Audit Office to be £11,000 per person.

"The real-time link also provides us with a way of securely accessing existing information on applicants held in the UK, helping us to ensure that visas are not granted to people who have previously been removed from the country and are attempting to re-enter under a false identity."

As required by legislation, to be introduced in 2008, all applications made for visas to enter the UK must be supported by biometric checks using digital photographs and fingerprint scans before approval.

This groundbreaking programme is the first in the UK Government's identity programmes to be implemented. During the last three years, UKvisas, PA Consulting Group and Software AG have worked collaboratively with UKvisas to rapidly deliver a programme that ensures that all Visas applicants have their biometrics enrolled, their data sent securely to the UK for storage and matching, and that the results of their matches are returned to overseas officials within 30 minutes of enrollment.

"Effective collaboration and secure information sharing is key when making decisions about who to award visas to and who not. If the information we have is not shared between departments effectively, mistakes are more likely to happen," said Jim Close, senior VP at Software AG. "Using service oriented architecture, UKvisas and the BIA have been effectively and securely linked to provide the results of check backs to assist in their decision making process."

"The decision to use Software AG was based on the company's expertise and their strategic alliance with Computacenter in the Government sector. The benefits of this alliance provided VFM in the delivery of the messaging and transactional solution," said Andrew Pestell, Head of Procurement for UKvisas.
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