Low Cost Non Biometric VISA Verification

February 18th, 2007

Currently, when travellers arrive in the UK from third world countries, they have their VISAs inspected by staff equipped with loupes. The VISA is in the form of a printed sticker with embedded security features.

The staff with loupes are looking for forged VISA stickers. They have no way of checking wether or not any particular VISA is genuine or not.

The processing of these passengers takes considerably longer than it should, because two procedures are being carried out, and there is a prolonged questioning session that takes place.

To make everything work better this is what you need to do.

1) The questioning of a passenger’s travel plans should take place in the country of origin, before the VISA is issued.

2) When a VISA is issued, the physical stamp should be stuck inside the passport. It should then be entered into an online application, so that when the passenger arrives in the UK, the Immigration Officer scans the stamp, and the record is retrieved. She can then compare the online record with the sticker in the passport.

Each VISA record is digitally signed with the PGP key of the VISA issuing station and officer that certified this person. This eliminates the problem of someone somewhere gaining access and inserting false entries into the database.

If someone tries to fly into the UK on a forged VISA, the record will not exist in the database. No need for loupes or long queues. If the record is not in the DB, it must be a fake. As long as the VISA is issued correctly, one swipe of the passport will be enough to see if the person’s VISA is in order.

A very simple LAMP powered application could do this. Every Embassy in the world could be connected to the system with commodity equipment and some relatively simple software. You could ether get all the Embassies to run their own web-servers that are queried in realtime, or you could have all of the Embassies upload to a monolithic server in Whitehall. You know which one I would prefer. See below.

Why on earth this has not been done should not be a surprise to anyone; HMG knows nothing about IT, and the people who do don’t want to sell a cheap, efficient system like this to anyone because they will not make any money out of it.

A project like this should really be done in house, on Open Source software. It is not rocket science, does not not involve new developing new algorithms or systems, is non invasive, proportional and fool proof. It is about time that IT was taken seriously by HMG. It is not absurd to imagine that every British Embassy has its own IT officer, in charge of running the Embassy website, since so many services are done on the web. It also means that there is no single point of failure bringing the entire UK VISA down.

Naturally, it has not been done. Instead, the staff are getting new clothes.

Putting the Immigration Staff into uniforms is not going to solve any problems. It is in fact, a sign of weakness and impotence.


One Response to “Low Cost Non Biometric VISA Verification”

  1. BLOGDIAL » Blog Archive » The great exodus Says:

    […] vendor driven garbage. They do not improve border security or stop illegal immigration. There are better ways to issue VISAS that do not threaten the […]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.