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UK Home Office hands Sopra Steria £91m digital visa contract

French outsourcer to handle applications process

The Home Office has awarded Sopra Steria a £91m contract to develop a digital visa and immigration service in the UK.

The French outsourcer will take on the contract in October 2018 – the latest in a raft of recently signed deals intended to cope with processing immigration status post-Brexit, particularly for the 3 million EU nationals residing in Blighty.

Under the contract, Sopra Steria will provide an application process from over 60 locations across the UK, including 56 local libraries. Applicants will be asked to submit biometric information including photos, fingerprints, and signatures. The evidence will then be copied and sent to UK Visas and Immigration.

People can also choose to upload digital files in advance of their appointment.

Last month the Home Office signed a £10m deal with Accenture to replace its clunky 1990s-era immigration and asylum applications system – having previously written off £347m in its last attempted overhaul.

The department also inked a deal with a number of system integrators to create a digital app intended to register the estimated 3 million EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit.

However, the Home Office later admitted the app will not work on iPhones.

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said of the Sopra deal: "The new streamlined service 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."

The department is having a bit of a PR crisis following the Windrush scandal: a generation of people from the Carribean were invited to Britain to help rebuild the country following WWII but were given no formal documentation to prove they have the legal right to stay and have faced deportation in recent times.

The Home Office also recently backed down from ordering the NHS to hand over patients' personal details so it could track down illegal immigrants.

And this week the bungling department suspended controversial immigration checks on thousands of bank accounts.

Separately, it was also revealed that thousands of skilled workers – including IT specialists and engineers – have been refused visas this year due to the British government's much-maligned immigration cap. ®

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