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The Immigration System: Do we really need a digital intervention?

This year, there has been a huge increase in in the number of work and other related visas, and it's more than likely that demand will only increase over time.

The change in rules and policies for tier 2 and tier 5 visas from January 2021 mean more applicants require legal advice than ever before. For example, EU citizens moving to the UK to work will need to get a visa in advance. EU citizens applying for a skilled worker visa will need to show they have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor to apply for the Visa. That means many employers, who are not currently an approved sponsor, will need to get a sponsor licence in the next few months.

Because of the huge demand in services required, plans to move forward with a digital-first strategy to replace physical and paper-based products have been set in motion.

Ongoing plans

The Home Office have broadcasted their plans to create a new digital-first immigration system within the next 2 years, to help manage immigration and asylum appeals. A £10 million contract has been negotiated to create the software for the system, which will be shared with all other Government departments.

The digital database has already begun to take steps to build up their pool of data. The government have built up a network on who in the EU is allowed to settle in the UK – based on the applications people made to find out if they could remain in the UK after the transition period on 31st December.

Improving efficiency

It’s no doubt that a digital intervention to the immigration industry will have its obvious benefits. A digital system can significantly bring down the client acquisition cost and allow the government to serve a large number of clients quickly and efficiently.

Furthermore, the centralised approach will mean that people can easily share their status information with providers and other departments associated with the border and immigration system.

Also, by moving all data onto an online system, the immigration status could become more secure and “future proof, as certificates and cards no longer face expiring, or being lost or stolen.

Doubts and concerns in a digital-first world

Like any other major technological change, the plans for a new “digital by default” border and immigration system don’t come without their implementation glitches, and doubts and concerns about steering away from a more tried and trusted traditional system.

People want to be sure they can establish their rights, and the abolishing of paper records have begun to cause concern for people being wrongly denied access to housing, work or services. The change has been compared to members of the Windrush generation being unable to provide documentation to prove their right to live in the UK. Human rights groups and charities also warn that the movement into a digital system will cut off people who are not digitally literate, urging the Home Office to rethink its approach to the scheme.

Looking toward the future

As all areas of life, from banking to transport, we continue to see a rapid shift towards digital status. It therefore only seems logical that the border and immigration embrace the technology to reap the benefits. The question lies whether such a change will actually make things easier for people, or whether it will add another layer of bureaucracy to an already overly complicated visa system.

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