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UK unveils enhanced border control plans with digital ID for visas

Introducing a US-style Electronic Travel Authorisation
UK unveils enhanced border control plans with digital ID for visas

The UK has unveiled new plans to fully digitalize the country’s visa system, including digital ID integration.

The move was announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel earlier today in a keynote speech reported by Reuters and will see the establishment of a U.S.-style Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) by 2025.

If implemented, the new system will require travelers to the UK to obtain an electronic permit before entering the country. Digital ID will be used in visa issuance, according to the announcement, eliminating the need for travellers to visit a Visa Application Center in some cases. This will enable the government to effectively count people entering and leaving Britain.

“For decades the UK Government has been unable to accurately measure levels of immigration and the number of people entering or leaving the country,” Patel said in a news release on Saturday.

In fact, identity checks on passengers leaving the country were abolished in 1998, deemed unnecessary thanks to the EU free movement zone.

Due to Brexit, however, the government has introduced a points-based immigration system, with the ensuing necessity of a new border control system to be established by UK authorities.

“New changes to digitize the border will mean we can now count who is coming in and out of the country and whether they have permission to be here,” Patel said.

The Home Secretary also clarified that Irish citizens will not require ETAs to enter the country, and that additional digital identity checks will be used to reduce the need for travelers to visit visa application centers.

Together with the digitalization of border control, Patel also unveiled the rest of her New Plan for Immigration, which includes reforms to the asylum system, and a harder crackdown on criminal gangs profiting from smuggling people into the UK.

“Our new approach will make it easier to identify potential threats before they reach the border. The British people will have confidence that the strongest controls are in place to keep them safe.”

The UK government has been working to build up the country’s digital ID ecosystem, with the Information Commissioner’s Office recently calling for strong data protection regulations to underpin the efforts.

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