The UK Border Agency (UKBA) may introduce a postal visa service for foreign nationals, following the outage of its identity card computer system.
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Hundreds of foreign nationals queuing for biometric visas or permits to stay in Britain at UKBA's Croydon Enquiry Office were turned away yesterday following a system glitch.
A Home Office spokesman told Computer Weekly the cause of the outage was due to problems with the case work systems, which meant the biometric cards could not be collected and verified.
He said: “We are looking at contingency plans and opening hours, part of that may involve offering a premium service by post.”
A foreign national, who asked not to be named, described how the UKBA had been experiencing difficulty with its online appointment booking service for days.
Another said they were forced to make an appointment in Cardiff instead of Croydon as their visa was about to expire.
A UKBA spokesman said: “Everyone affected by the IT outage yesterday will be contacted in the next few days and offered new appointments. The aim is that all appointments will be before 18 May.”
UKBA came under fire from spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) last year, which blamed continued IT failures for its immigration system faults.
Delays, reductions in system capability and increased costs were the consequence of poor IT procurement and inadequate governance, said the NAO report. The UKBA even paid Fujitsu £4m for work done on applications that were never used.