We can expect more countries to move towards Digitalisation in the coming years, allowing for globally expanding companies to make faster hiring decisions.
The Digital Transformation
With the immigration backlogs in some countries, including the UK, there is a growing appetite for digitalisation to facilitate visa and work permit applications across all visa application centres.
Around the world, governments have spent the past few years moving towards online services for visa applications.
Canada implemented a platform to support the IRCC in 2021, whilst Sweden launched the Kraftsamling in December 2022. South Africa has also undertaken a digitalisation project and is looking to implement self-service kiosks to help citizens and residents obtain official documents in a more streamlined manner.
However, in many countries, tech advancements for immigration procedures are lagging behind the need for more streamlined processes, and there are also concerns about whether digital technology will create new challenges of its own.
Considering Immigration Rules and Document Collection
Shifting away from manual paperwork collection and submission, digital technologies, in many jurisdictions enable employers and employees to submit online application forms to the official processing bodies.
Depending on the type of application, some countries have already started taking to steps to eliminate the requirement for providing hard copies during in-person appointments. In New Zealand, temporary permit types can be lodged with digital copies, though permanent residence types still require originals to be presented.
One of the greatest challenges, however, is that in many countries existing “wet-signature” requirements on certain documents add a considerable amount of time to the application process.
In one example, a Russian National living in Thailand and moving to Luxembourg is required to order their Police Clearance Certificate (PCC) from Gosislugi, have the document posted to a friend, family member, or POA within Russia, and have the document forwarded to Luxembourg via a third country (e.g. Georgia), due the shipping ban from Russia in the EU member states.
The complete process often takes between 2-3 months for the procurement of a single document. In an effort to move away from cumbersome processes, more countries are taking steps to accept scanned documents.
Concerns with Digital Innovation Risk
Even with the digitalisation movement, immigration is still a challenging subject to navigate, and officials can sometimes request unnecessary documents, original copies, or other details before making a final decision. In these circumstances, it is helpful to have an expert provide guidance and support along the process and liaise with the public authorities on behalf of the applicant.
Further advancements in the digitalisation of immigration consider the biometric data collection and storage of applicants through passports, ID cards, and permits. The digital biometric collection is susceptible to “spoofing”, in which applicants sometimes remove blemishes or other distinguishing marks from digital images that can impact the validity of the identification document at a later stage.
When biometric photos are collected during office appointments, this risk is mitigated. In even more advanced processing centers, facial recognition software has been found to be disproportionately biased towards people of colour – misidentifying them as individuals with criminal backgrounds. In the immigration process, this technology error could have a devastating impact on the success of an application.
By eliminating manual paperwork where possible in the application process, creating platforms for tracking the status of applications, and loosening restrictions on the format of the accepted documentation, government departments around the world are enabling a higher processing capacity for applications and reducing immigration backlogs.
We can expect more countries to move towards modernisation in the coming years, allowing for globally expanding companies to make faster hiring decisions. However the digitalisation process has its limits (for now) and doesn’t completely eliminate the need for humanitarian assistance, and some experts have concerns that too much dependence on technology can have negative impacts on the immigration process.
If you want to hear more about this subject, and the legislative considerations with deep-tech advancements, watch our Centuro Global Expansion Conference panel discussions on "Revolutionising Technology: Bridging Privacy, Security, and Borders" here.