Transforming the Government’s approach to in-country visa processing

Securing the UK’s borders and transforming the immigration experience


UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), part of the Home Office, is responsible for making millions of decisions every year about who has the right to visit or stay in the country. For applicants who want to remain in the UK, there are over 100 different visa options, from supporting people to work and study, to competing in UK sporting events.

The challenge: To deliver a better, quicker and more efficient user experience

Applying for a visa has always been a complex process. Two years ago (prior to Sopra Steria getting involved), visa applicants in the UK had to physically walk into a Post Office to complete forms, verify their identity and leave behind documentation to be sent on to the Home Office. This was slow, inconvenient and stressful for applicants, as well as time consuming, expensive and resource hungry for UKVI.

Following a competitive tender, Sopra Steria was brought on board to transform and modernise the service to deliver a better, quicker and more efficient user experience with clear cost and process benefits for UKVI.

As a result, UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) was established.

The solution: The creation of a modern, highly secure visa application service

Sopra Steria completely re-imagined the applicant journey. The UKVCAS solution has transformed the visa application and processing service, bringing it online and giving applicants the ability to book an appointment and access additional helpful services (such as document scanning, checking and translation) that were not previously available.

The Sopra Steria UKVCAS team set up a network of over 50 service points in convenient locations across the UK. These enable applicants to enrol their biometrics in person and submit digitised supporting documents to UKVI. Sopra Steria also worked with local councils, engaging the library network to deliver a community-based service. This enables applicants to submit their biometrics at a date and time and location to suit them whilst allowing them to retain their key identity documents.

Additionally, Sopra Steria introduced innovative self-service kiosks that securely confirm identity by capturing photographs, fingerprints, unique signatures and key identity documents to the biometric standard required by UKVI.

The Sopra Steria UKVCAS team also developed an innovative mobile service. This means biometric enrolment kits can be taken directly to the applicant or to any location, e.g. a university, hospital, office complex or (for vulnerable applicants), to their home to securely verify their identity.

Delivering innovation at pace – the IDV app

In order to manage continued demand for visa applications during the COVID-19 pandemic, UKVI worked with Sopra Steria to accelerate its future digital roadmap. This involved developing a new and innovative way for applicants to submit biometric information and verify their identity using a smartphone.

The UKVCAS Identity Verification (IDV) app was developed in just 3 months by agile Sopra Steria teams working across the UK and India. To date the IDV app has been used by over 120,000 eligible applicants, offering a real alternative to ‘face to face’ appointments. It’s currently being used by T4 students, offering a quick, simple and easy to use route to apply for a visa.

Clear and significant benefits

  • A streamlined and highly secure national digital identity verification solution
  • Simplified end-to-end customer journey and a more enjoyable user experience
  • More customer choice and customisation of services including ‘offline applications’
  • Comprehensive and flexible service – can be delivered at any location via a mobile biometric enrolment kit or the IDV app
  • Accessible for all – facilities designed around vulnerable customers 
  • Customers can select an appointment at a date, time and cost to suit their needs
  • Increased customer choice of appointment type (Core, Enhanced, Premium Lounges)
  • New ‘added-value’ services enhance the customer journey, saving time and effort to support customers through a stressful time
  • Highly responsive service with ability to flex and adapt to local/national changes
  • Increased efficiencies through better use of technology. E.g. self-serve kiosks and IDV app

Innovation is nothing without impact

A great idea isn’t an answer in itself. You need to deliver on that vision and turn it into a value-added reality for your department. For that, you need a consulting and IT services partner that has the passion, insight and pace to continually take you from ideation to impact. Ongoing innovation is only the beginning of what we can achieve together.

Sopra Steria does more to help you adapt in a changing world. We design, develop and deliver technology solutions that achieve your strategic outcomes and meet your specific challenges. By combining collaborative consultancy and strategic expertise with sector specialisms, digital best practice and accelerated delivery, we make a real difference to every client’s challenges.

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