Digital transformation

E-visas: key factors for successful implementation


4 min to read

E-visas: key factors for successful implementation

Digitalisation offers significant potential benefits to the public sector. It is a key reason why TLScontact has invested in revolutionising our digital product portfolio, to help governments and other public sector organisations take advantage of these benefits. When applied to the visa sector, digitalisation can ultimately allow the implementation of e-visas that reduce the costs and security risks associated with managing physical visa vignettes, and help to streamline decision-making. However, there are multiple factors to consider when introducing e-visas, from security and user experience to compatibility with existing government systems. At TLScontact, we have the experience and capability to support partner governments in setting up secure, user-friendly e-visa solutions, across multiple geographies.

A decade ago, a team at McKinsey calculated that governments worldwide could reap $1 trillion in efficiency savings through digitalisation initiatives. Deloitte also recently found that people are demanding more digitalisation in their interactions with the public sector, and a further London School of Economics (LSE) post highlighted key opportunities in data entry and management, payment processing, and end-to-end streamlined services.

In this context, it is unsurprising that digitalisation initiatives such as e-visas—that is, electronically issued travel credentials—have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Australia, with whom TLScontact has a long-standing relationship for visa and biometric application services, has been one of the pioneers of e-visas. Today, industry sources estimate that 50 such e-visa schemes are in operation worldwide and many more electronic travel authorisation services, such as the United States’ ESTA and Canada’s eTA.

By the end of this decade, the UK and Schengen states will launch new e-visa schemes and, between them, will issue more than 20 million e-visas annually.

E-visas: multiple advantages for governments

The allure of e-visas for governments is threefold:

  • Firstly, they replace physical vignettes affixed to passports, eliminating the cost and security risk of managing these valuable assets. In a Deloitte feasibility study for the European Commission, the cost of Schengen visa vignettes was found to be between EUR 250m and EUR 280m per year—or EUR 15.60 to EUR 17.50 for visa applicants—equivalent to almost a quarter of the current Schengen visa fee.
  • Secondly, e-visas can be used to replace visas on arrival, thereby streamlining immigration processes and reducing queues in ports and airports.

They are increasingly being introduced in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. In Kenya, for example, dozens of nationalities previously had to fill out a visa application form and pay the visa fee in USD at immigration as part of a visa on arrival scheme. The Kenyan authorities recently replaced this system with an entirely electronic travel authorisation system (eTA). The new service will eliminate queuing on arrival for health, customs, and immigration while also freeing up immigration official time.

  • Thirdly, with e-visa applications, decision-making can be done remotely. Governments can therefore create economies of scale by centralising visa application case working and even bring it back ‘onshore’ to the home country, creating domestic jobs.

However, e-visas are more than just an electronic travel credential; they require a secure digital ecosystem to operate effectively on a global scale.

E-visas: how to ensure both security and optimal user experience

Even the ‘easier’ part of an e-visa system – the frontend website travellers use to apply for an e-visa – can be a challenge for governments naturally predisposed to providing digital services to their citizens domestically. One recent e-visa programme ran into such challenges, with a website optimised for domestic use, when 100% of the service user base was exclusively overseas, and a qsingle PayPal payment option that many users feared was fraudulent.

Issuing the e-visa itself is also complex.

Physical vignettes contain multiple security features to illustrate their authenticity, and e-visas issued by email must be equally secure and dependable. Including cryptographically signed QR codes on an email that any interested party can verify at source is currently the securest way of issuing an e-visa. This enables border control, the police, hotels, landlords, employers, and other third parties with a legitimate interest in verifying someone’s immigration status to scan this QR code and receive a response from the issuing authority, ensuring its integrity.

Then, there is the middle part of the process: the actual casework and the e-visa decision.

While many e-visa and electronic travel authorisation schemes use business rules and artificial intelligence (AI) to automate routine decision-making or review applications from low-risk travellers, many governments still use human caseworkers to scrutinise e-visa applications. These workers, therefore, need a case management system that is fully integrated with both the upstream e-visa application website and a downstream email service capable of generating unique, secure e-visa credentials.

A modular e-visa solution to meet specific government requirements

In our traditional visa application services business at TLScontact, we work with governments that are at different stages in their digitalisation journey: some with legacy systems, others starting from scratch. For governments to reap the greatest benefits from digitalisation – and capture their fair share of that $1 trillion efficiency opportunity – at TLScontact, we have developed a modular e-visa service that can flexibly accommodate the diverse needs of different governments, from data capture and management, to payment processing, ensuring end-to-end streamlined services.

Governments can use our globally accessible, mobile-friendly website solution to accept e-visa applications. This comes equipped with the sector’s most advanced online payments solution, seamlessly integrating 23 global and local payment gateways into a single payment platform to ensure that e-visa fees can be collected in virtually any country or currency, often with multiple payment options. The capture and processing of digital documents is also part of our solution, meaning that scans of passports and other supporting documents can be included alongside biographical and contact data.

The data captured from this website can be securely transferred to existing e-visa case working systems via API, or governments can licence our in-house case management system and make an e-visa decision using TLScontact-provided technology.

To round off our offering, we can issue cryptographically signed e-visas once a decision has been made, either directly from our case management system or via a separate platform provided to government case workers.

Whatever elements of this plug-and-play service governments choose, the TLScontact e-visa solution fits seamlessly into the existing technology landscape, while enabling governments to optimise visa processes to benefit overseas travellers, their visa case workers, and taxpayers.

If you represent a government looking to implement a seamless e-visa solution, come and talk to us. Fill out the form on our contact page, and one of our representatives will contact you immediately to start a conversation.

Article written by Simon Peachey
Chief Sales Officer

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