U.K. marketTaking stock of UKVisas program

Published 18 March 2008

UKVisas is part of the U.K. government’s e-border program - and to date has moved faster than other components of the scheme; the program wins a technology award, which is a good occasion to see where the program stands today

The UKVisas biometric program is part of teh U.K. government’s comprehensive e-border campaign, which aims to use the latest technology to gain better control over who comes into the United Kingdom, who leaves, and who stays. The UKvisas program was a nominee for the 2007 e-Government National Awards, and the reasons the panel of judges gave for selecting the program in the innovation in strategy category offer us a good way to take stock of the program.

The UKvisas biometrics program, is the first of the U.K. government’s biometrics identity management programmes to deliver, collecting 10-fingerscan and a digital photograph of every UK visa applicant around the world. The program has successfully delivered a key component of the U.K. Border Strengthening Strategy for enhancing immigration control. “In delivering this innovative strategy the program utilized state of the art technology and novel business processes to deliver a world leading visa service providing first class customer service, enhanced integrity of visa decisions and increased national security,” the panel says. Here are some of the particulars:

1. The program’s original success factors included enrolling 2 Fingerprints of all applicants, transmitting records to the United Kingdom to match against U.K. databases and returning results to the embassy overseas within forty-eight hours. The solution had to ensure that customer service was maintained. The program designed, built, and delivered a Web Services based solution to enable us to record 10 Fingerprints and capture live photos of all applicants using outsourced enrolment centres with overall cycle time of 15 minutes.

2. In less than 12 months the programme has moved from operating a small scale pilot program in 11 countries to having a real-time, robust, and sustainable biometric data collection and comparison system operating in the U.K. diplomatic missions and Visa Application Centers (VACs) in 108 countries. Pre-biometric Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets have been maintained and visa applicants wait no longer for their visa applications to be processed.

3. The first phase of the program (September 2006 to January 2007) introducing biometric visas in U.K. diplomatic missions in 63 countries was completed on time and within budget. Phase II, equipping the remaining overseas missions and the offices of U.K. commercial partners, began in May 2007. Milestone targets of 75 countries live by the end of June 2007 and 105 live by the end of September were both met. Global rollout completion target is April 2008. The program is on course to complete delivery sooner and within budget.

4. To date, UKvisas have collected more than 700,000 fingerscans from applicants, the rate of collection is currently over 100,000 records a month. Over 7,000 scans have been matched against U.K. records informing in real-time visa decisions enabling over 250 fraudulent identity swaps to be identified in July and August 2007.

We also note that the program is supported by all sides of the House and has drawn no substantive criticism from any quarter.