Online UK visa services programme requires millions of pounds

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Boris Johnson Prime Minister and Priti Patel Home Secretary working on the Train 30 July 2020

Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

Comments by Sanwar Ali:

Will this new UK visa related system make things easier for people or will it just add another layer of bureaucracy to an already overly complicated UK visa system?  How easy will the online system be to use in practice.  Will there be lots of bugs?  Current online UK visa systems can be confusing and difficult to use. 

For example, how do you apply for a Van der Elst visa under EU law to send a non-EU worker to work in the UK under EU law?  It seems that even immigration experts and most Home Office officials do not know the answer to this question.  I think we know the answer to this question.  The Home Office is trying to prevent people from applying by making it almost impossible to find out how to apply!  You should be allowed to apply for this UK visa category at least until the end of the Brexit transitional period at the end of this year.

According to a report published by PublicTechnology.net, the Home Office is in need of a commercial partner to invest £10 million in a new online service that will check UK immigration status. A contract notice issued by the agency recently states “we need a supplier to provide skills not available within our current workforce.”

The Home Office reportedly needs people with software development expertise in Java, node.JS and other coding languages. The contract is for two years and is set to be worth between £5 million and £10 million.

The supplier awarded the contract will be responsible for the “creation of re-usable patterns and modules for custom development, technical delivery management, testing, agile methods and governance, business analysis, and DevOps specialist support”, the Home Office said.

UK online visa system will help Home Office staff

The skills required to deliver the new online UK immigration services programme will reportedly supplement the Home Office’s current staff. A range of digital services will be available to citizens, employers and the government to check the UK immigration status of an individual.

In addition to delivering online front-end services, the programme is expected to cover the development of APIs, which allow immigration tools to integrate with other systems.

In a statement, the Home Office said: “The Home Office is developing a border and immigration system which is ‘digital by default’ for all migrants, which over time means we will increasingly replace physical and paper-based products and services with accessible, easy to use online and digital services.”

“An integral part of this is enabling immigration status information to be made available, through digital means via online status-checking services, which enable individuals to access and share their status information with providers, or via APIs with other government departments or elements of the border and immigration system, enabling automated status checking to be incorporated into other systems,” the statement added.

It’s understood that the chosen supplier will partner with existing suppliers and civil servants working on the programme.

The Home Office said: “A variety of online status services are already live, with several APIs due to go live over the next few months.

“However, as the work will encompass development of further services, and extension of existing services to a wider range of users, the requirement is not solely L3 (level three technical support) – we also require resources to support continual change.”

Digital immigration system used for EU settlement scheme

The Home Office has launched one digital immigration system that is already widely used, which allows individuals and organisations to check whether EU citizens have been granted settled status in the UK under the government’s EU settlement scheme.

It’s understood that a tool enabling private landlords to check the UK immigration status of prospective tenants under the government’s right to rent scheme is also in development.

According to the Home Office, it’s goal is to ‘create a comprehensive range of services allowing for UK immigration status to be checked digitally.’

The Home Office said: “Users will be those who have touchpoints with the end to end UK immigration system.

“This will include the public applying for entry to the UK and third parties – such as employers, landlords, financial services providers and other government departments, who need to check and understand an individual’s immigration status to enable them to live, work and access services in the UK.

“Users will also include border, security and enforcement teams controlling immigration and securing UK borders.”

Bidding for the contract is open until 19 August 2020 and work is expected to start on 10 October.

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