Federal election delays visa, immigration changes

The announcement of the Federal election on 21 August has led to the delay of key transformational changes in the immigration department's technology portals

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s (DIAC) plan to complete its transformational change under the Systems for People program has been delayed due to the Federal election on 21 August.

Speaking at the CIO Summit 2010 this week, DIAC chief information officer, Bob Correll, told attendees that the department had initially planned to complete the second drop of 2010 on 21 August, but that this had since been delayed due to the announcement of the election. The last rollout, which has not as yet been rescheduled by the department, would see the implementation of a generic visa portal, facilitating easier processing of DIAC’s 140 different types of visas, and effectively cutting down the length of time it takes to approve or deny an inbound traveller access to Australia.

The generic visa portal is one of 12 role-based portals rolled out by the department as part of the Systems for People program, a four-year, $500 million transformational change process initiated in response to the release of the Palmer Report in 2005. Another of those portals was successfully implemented earlier this year, on 30 June.

The delay of the generic visa portal will, in turn, delay the department’s plans to embark on a second transformational change program, expected to last a further five years. Under the “second wave” of transformational change, the department would halve the number of different visas from 140 to 70, while moving up to 95 per cent of those visas online for application and processing; a quarter of the total number of visas are currently available online.

As part of the new transformational change, the department would also seek to implement better risk management and analytics with a view to automate the majority of low-risk decision making on visa and immigration, while strengthening DIAC’s offshore presence to facilitate easier face-to-face contact with potentially high-risk clients.

“Fundamentally it will change the way we do business,” Correll told attendees of the summit.

According to Correll, the department processes 25 million inbound migrants and travellers annually, with 4.6 million being provided temporary visas in 2009. Of the potential travellers, one to two thousand are stopped at the border while 80,000 are prevented from getting visas prior to travelling every year.

The Systems for People program was initiated in 2006, after what Correll described as “very bad year for the immigration department”, and was centred on fixing business process and IT problems inherent in the department when the current CIO first joined.

Other role-based portals have focussed on compliance, case management, detention services, health assessment, security referrals, enterprise correspondence, client search, settlement, border security, central movement alerts, revenue receipting and visa and citizenship wizards. DIAC was awarded the “excellence in e-government award” for the visa and citizenship wizards project in 2009, held by the Department of Finance and Deregulation.

Correll has sought to progressively decommission legacy systems over the program’s four years, as the role-based portals are implemented for various purposes.

“Each of those portals establish the consistent global business process for that role in the organisation, give access to the single client view and give access to better controlled record keeping,” he said. “Then progressively you hollow out the legacy systems so, when you get to your last release, you’ve reached your end-state technology architecture and you’re then in a position to decommission the legacy systems.”

Given the similarity in the requirements of visa processing globally, Correll said DIAC had already received interest in exporting its internal systems to other countries for similar purposes.

“Essentially what we have there is an off-the-shelf product for processing visas anywhere in the world; all you need to do is put the rules in the rules engine and relate it to your country.”

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Tags Federal Election 2010visaDepartment of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC)CIO Summit 2010Bob Correll

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