Immigration prepares for massive overhaul of visa processing

Prepares for rollout of ‘global digital platform’ to manage visa applications

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has formally launched the expressions of interest (EOI) process for the first stage of its “once in a generation” overhaul of visa processing.

Earlier this year the department staged a public consultation on the design of a visa service delivery service business that envisaged the creation of a “global digital visa processing platform”.

The new request for EOI is the first stage in the multi-stage procurement process being conducted by the government. The government is seeking to test the capabilities of potential private sector partners to design, implement and operate the new “global digital platform” (GDP).

The GDP will “provide a digital interface and operational system capability for the new Visa business, starting with the delivery of end-to-end Shorter term validity Visa services,” documents released by the department state.

In 2016-17, the department received some 8.7 million visa applications. The government is forecasting growth of approximately 50 per cent to more than 13 million via applications by 2026-27.

The rapid growth in visa applications is pushing the department to implement more sophisticated risk assessment and “visa and citizenship services that are more internationally competitive, efficient and user-focused,” documents released by the department state.

“However, managing these priorities without significantly increasing costs to the taxpayer, requires the Department to increase the level of market-provided automated services to support its high-volume transactional business,” the documents released for the EOI process state.

“This will also enable the Department’s staff to focus on the more complex elements of the Visa and citizenship business.”

Currently visa processing is managed by dozens of different systems, some dating back decades.

The department’s two core platforms are the Immigration Records Information System (IRIS), which was installed in 1989 and primarily used to process paper-based visa applications lodged outside Australia, and the Immigration and Citizenship Unified Environment (ICUE). ICUE is gradually replacing the older IRIS platform and supports online lodgement of applications.

The platforms are backed by a range of other systems that deal with risk, identity, biometrics, finance, and record keeping.

Currently there is a significant amount of manual handling involved in processing visas.

“A transformation of business processes and enabling ICT is essential to substantially expand automation of processing and Decision making to achieve the efficiency required to manage increasing Visa Application volumes without substantially increasing staff,” department documents state.

The department envisages a new visa service delivery business that will be “streamlined and flexible”, with a heavy focus on digitisation and automation.

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