Home Office reveals plans for long-overdue 'digital border'

New digital visa to be launched as part of a "fully end-to-end digital customer experience"

The Home Office has published plans for its long-awaited digitisation of border controls and immigration

The new strategy promises a "fully end-to-end digital customer experience" for online applications, proof of identity and also crossing the border. 

It includes a new digital visa system to help count the number of people coming into the UK, which is said to be similar to the US Esta electronic travel authorisation. This would apply to any entrant that does not have an existing visa or immigration status.

"Our new fully digital border will provide the ability to count people in and count people out of the country," home secretary Priti Patel told an online conference on Monday, according to the Guardian

The project was originally scheduled for completion in 2019 and has reportedly cost upwards of £173 million. The plans still appear to have missing details, such as the cost of the digital visa and specific details on when it will be finished. The move to a fully digital border system has been heavily criticised by MPs for being too slow. 

"As part of this, we are looking at further ways to remove physical documents from the process and streamline the system, such as potentially removing the need for separate vignettes and Biometric Residence Permits, taking out the cost and time for the user and the Home Office and improving security," the department said in a statement.

"This would be supported by increased use of the online services to prove right to work and rent, simplifying the process for employers, landlords and individuals and reducing the number of documents relied on to prove status."

In March, the Public Accounts Committee slammed the Home Office for failing to make progress on its digital border transformation, labelling it "miserable" and "exorbitantly expensive". 

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