Immigration begins $1bn+ visa systems modernisation

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Immigration begins $1bn+ visa systems modernisation

Considers further market-based service delivery.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has kicked off its multi-billion-dollar, once-in-a-generation overhaul of Australia’s visa system.

It today began calling for feedback on the design and build of its new online visa processing platform, which aims to improve end-to-end digitisation and automation amid unprecedented growth in the volume of visa applications.

It is just one of the self-contained, adaptable systems the department will put in place over the next ten years to replace legacy systems.

The proposed platform will be a one-stop shop for visa applicants, providing multi-lingual online services, an online application for managing the visa application process and interacting with the department, and a global payments gateway.

It will also enable applicants to securely provide all necessary biometric information.

The department is also exploring the wider role of industry in the delivery of visa services, but wants to “retain functions where direct control is necessary for ensuring government sovereignty”, including manual visa decision making and security checks.

“The department proposes the future visa business makes considerably greater use of the market to benefit from specialist expertise, increased efficiency, existing solutions and capabilities, and innovative technologies," consultation papers state.

Part of this involves the potential use of technology like artificial intelligence algorithms to reduce the level of human involvement and improve efficiency of non-health related assessments.

The department expects to spend the next 18 months collaborating with providers to co-design the new visa solution, and is proposing that the various components be split into eight separate bundles that will be brought to market in three stages over the next five years.

The first bundle is concerned with delivering the online self-service platform – the "global digital platform" – and supporting systems that aim to create a seamless experience application experience.

Bundles two, three, four and eight will cover the provision of onshore and offshore health and other assessments, while the remaining bundles will cover online, offshore and specialist data collection and verification. The platform would also be used by external providers to input results from assessments. 

The cost of bundle one is estimated at between $1-2 billion over the next decade, significantly more than the $35 million given to the department in the recent federal budget to “better manage risk, increase efficiency in processing and improve the visa applicant experience".

“This includes costs for designing, building, running and improving the business platform and supporting systems. These costs would be borne by provider(s) and recouped from applicants through an agreed user-charge as they use the new platform," the department said.

The platform will need to integrate with Immigration's existing enterprise threat, identity, and biometric systems through APIs.

The visa application process is currently underpinned by two processing platforms – the immigration records information system (IRIS) and immigration and citizenship unified environment (ICUE). 

These systems have developed over 30 years and have inter-dependencies with “dozens of systems and sources of data".

The department wants all temporary visas to become available on the platform by the end of 2020, beginning with "less complex, higher-volume temporary entry visa products" in 2019.

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