Home Office pours £3.8m into shared service for biometric cards

The Home Office has awarded a £3.8m contract to Thales for a service to support the production of Biometric Residence Permit cards

The Home Office has awarded a £3.8m contract to Thales for a managed shared infrastructure service to support the production of Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) cards.

BRP cards are needed for all non-EU foreign nationals in order for them to stay in the UK for a predetermined period of time. The cards provide identification, as well as immigration status and what the owner is entitled to during their time in the UK.

Thales will provide its Public Key Infrastructure Shared Service (PKISS) for two years, which will include software application development and service support to the Home Office.

The service, which was awarded through the Public Services Network (PSN) framework, will encrypt the biometric and biographic data provided by the Home Office, which will create the cards.

Phil Naybour, vice-president of secure communications and information systems at Thales UK, said: “We have been delivering the PKISS service to the Home Office since 2008 and this contract award clearly demonstrates the customer’s confidence in our solution and service support packages. This contract also shows Thales as a leading provider of PSN services where security is a critical element.”

BRP cards were announced in 2008 as a measure to tighten control of the presence and movement of foreigners in the UK. 

The plan formed part of the government's £1.2bn e-Borders project, which was first commissioned in 2003 to improve the use of data to track people moving in and out of the UK’s borders. One aim was to conduct checks on travellers at the point of embarkation to the UK, rather than on arrival in the country.

But the project faced trouble with suppliers and was formally ended earlier this year, four years after the government cancelled a £750m contract for the IT programme.

All of the intended aims of the project have been merged into the the Border System Programme (BSP), an initiative launched in January 2013. BRP cards, among other functions, have been incorporated into the new, broader project to secure the UK's borders. 

At the time BSP was put out to tender, the Home Office told Computer Weekly it was separate to e-Borders, but its scope has since been expanded. 

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