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Government to get new digital visa service

The Home Office has signed up to a deal with Sopra Steria for a visa service allowing people to use biometrics and digital files as part of their application

The government will get a new visa application service with a strong focus on biometrics and digital files.

It has awarded a contract to supplier Sopra Steria, which will deliver the new service aiming to streamline the visa application process.

The new service will allow people to use biometrics such as photos and fingerprints, as well as being able to digitally upload documents ahead of their application appointment.

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said the “streamlined service”, which will be available at more than 60 locations across the UK, will “make the visa application process quicker and easier to access than ever before for people in the UK, through increasing the use of digital services”.

“We look forward to working with Sopra Steria to continue to deliver a world class and convenient service for UKVI customers,” she said.

The service also aims to build community links, working with the Society of Chief Librarians and utilise their reach. Those wishing to submit paper-based visa applications will still be able to do so, the government said.

In November last year, prime minister Theresa May announced the expansion of a visa scheme for top overseas talent and additional funding to support the tech sector in an attempt to demonstrate the government’s commitment to the UK IT industry post-Brexit.

Read more about visa applications

As part of the new visa scheme, the Home Office will double the number of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas available per year, allowing up to 2,000 of the most highly skilled people to come from overseas to work in the UK, in high-demand areas including the tech sector.

However, recent figures from the Campaign for Science and Engineering (Case) show that around 3,500 out of the 6,080 applicants for Tier 2 skilled visas were refused. The people applying were skilled in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) and medicine, among other skills the UK is in need of, such as Stem teaching.

Out of these skilled areas, technology suffered among the highest rejections of Tier 2 visas, with 1,226 of the refusals between December 2017 and March 2018 being in IT and technology roles alone.

Read more on IT for government and public sector

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