U.K. border agency notes first failure since becoming independent

Published 16 April 2009

The U.K. Border Agency became an independent government agency on 1 April; the next day, the system it uses to collect fingerprints from foreign visitors and compare them to a large biometric data base, malfunctioned

The U.K. Border Agency, which became a fully independent agency two weeks ago, already experienced its first technology failure - the system by which applicants for U.K. visas must send their fingerprints to London for checking went down last week. John Oates writes that it appears that a South American woman was having trouble visiting the United Kingdom. She had her fingerprints taken and was told to return on 8 April to pick up her visa. Dabs are sent to London for checking against a database of previous applicants before a visa is issued. She had booked her flight accordingly and returned to the local U.K. embassy last Wednesday. Then she was told the system was down, and had been intermittently since the 2 April. The staff was unable to tell her when it would be working again.

U.K. visa applicants have had to provide ten fingerprints and a digital photograph since January. A Home Office spokesperson said: “We can confirm that there was a small issue with our on-line visa application process but this was quickly fixed by the 6/4. This incident did not affect the integrity of our visa application systems and all applicants went through the normal stringent checks.” He was unable to clarify what caused the problem.

New rules for highly skilled migrant workers to the United Kingdom came into effect 31 March, the following day the U.K. Border Agency became a full executive agency of the Home Office.