Online visa application is now an essential component of a modern, integrated visa management system. It is key to enhancing both security and convenience.
As a result, a new generation of eVisa solutions has emerged, moving the entire visa application and issuance process online through an eVisa portal. Usually part of an eBorder strategy, its benefits include an enhanced traveller experience and significant reductions in administration costs, without compromising border integrity.
By combining experience and strict management of the business rules needed to adapt to diverse processes, it is possible to implement a complex eVisa management system in just three to four months.
In this article, we'll discuss:
- the key features of an eVisa system,
- the advantages it offers over traditional processes,
- the potential impact on homeland security.
- the three major factors behind the success of an eVisa project.
The traditional process can take anywhere from a week to two months. It can also prove costly and stressful.
That's a terrible start to the traveller experience.
Fortunately, there's a simple way around these frustrating issues.
How does an electronic visa work?
Quite simply, it allows the management of the visa application process to take place entirely online through an eVisa portal.
It's no surprise that this kind of online services is appreciated by travellers. Online eVisa services hide away obscure processes that are being done in different offices. When travellers are allowed to get away from this red tape, they do not hesitate!
Everything is done via the Internet:
- The visa application
- The payment
- The decision on the application.
An eVisa system manages the whole lifecycle of the visa request until final approval.
The system administrators can supervise the status of the request and see whether it is pending or validated. They can check the documents and data provided by the citizen, verify the result of the matching against national or Interpol databases, right up to the final administrative acceptance of the visa.
Online visa application: 3 benefits
Let's take a closer look at the benefits of setting up an online eVisa system.
Because the whole process is online, logistics are simplified and streamlined.
No more face-to-face appointments at a visa office, where a government employee manually inputs data onto the system and scans documents provided by the applicant.
Besides, once approval is granted, such a system eliminates the need to print a visa sticker and return the document to the holder.
According to the World Bank over six months in 2014, Moldovan embassies saved between 12 and 14% of working time as a direct result of the introduction of eVisas.
Providers also stand to make significant financial savings by doing away with visa stickers. For example, in 2013 alone, European countries issued more than 16 million short-term visas, at a total cost of 10 million Euros.
For applicants and government authorities alike, time and money are wasted on clumsy and frustrating paper-based systems. A traveller applying for a visa has to fill out the necessary paperwork and then either send it back by mail or physically take it to the destination state's local embassy or consulate. The embassy or consulate will then process the request, review the documents provided and send the approved visa back to the applicant.
With eVisa, requests are submitted via a secure application portal which can be accessed 24/7.
Get more fees, more visits and more jobs. Legislation usually enables the collection of additional processing fees for eVisas. This can be up to 20% more than the charge for a traditional one, covering the costs of operating and maintaining the portal and management system.
Besides, the introduction of a more convenient visa application process can stimulate both tourist and business travel.
The World Travel and Tourism Council, in its 2012 report ( The Impact of Visa Facilitation on Job Creation in the G20 Economies), highlighted a potential increase of over 15% in overseas tourist arrivals as a result of visa facilitation programs, generating a rise of up to 20% in traveller spend in the destination country.
The 2015 European Travel Commission's study titled Improving the Visa Regimes of European Nations to Grow Tourism puts it very clearly:
The impact of eVisa on border security and immigration control
Unprecedented threats to homeland security and the growth of large scale migration are just two of the factors driving the need for rigorous border controls.
As a result, you cannot improve the speed and efficiency of visa processing at the expense of security.
eVisa solutions can encompass several measures that address governments' need to maintain and boost security:
- Enhanced control and tracking: electronic systems provide authorities with real-time visibility of trends in demand for visas and the profile of applicants. They also enable on-demand information on the status of specific visa requests.
- Strengthened security: eVisa systems can integrate automatic, real-time background checks and links to watch-lists.
- Upfront document verification: in most cases, a traveller's biometrics are checked against the document and/or registered information at the border control point. But with eVisa systems, the ID document can be verified beforehand as part of the online visa request process. Biometric checks can also be included, using a webcam.
- Payment card-based identity verification: with eVisas, it is possible to protect against the threat of applicants using a stolen identity during the online request process. Applicants can be asked to pay the visa fee using a debit or credit card issued in their name. Information on the card submitted for payment can be compared automatically with the information and document submitted with the online visa portal.
Regular travellers to Gabon have welcomed the government's decision to launch its eVisa portal, moving away from procedures sometimes viewed as complicated.
Where the collection of biometric data online is a concern - such as fingerprints - the eVisa service can be offered initially to low-risk categories of traveller. Typically these might include applicants whose biometric data has been collected previously.
Another alternative is to keep the online application process open to all and deliver an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to travellers whose biometric data has yet to be collected.
These travellers then receive their visa on arrival at the destination airport, where immigration officers can collect fingerprints. At a later stage, authorities can decide whether to extend the use of eVisas, based on lessons learned.
Three key factors when introducing an online visa application
Putting in place an eVisa system goes way beyond the setting up of a web portal accessible to users to start their visa request.
Request processes are not standard and vary from one country to another.
1. Your system's ability to adapt to different approval cycles.
eVisa approval cycles differ from one country to another. Some states have two levels of approval; others can have up to four. The visa types and request conditions can also vary from one country to another. You can find single or multiple entry visas for different durations.
2. Your ability to support different types of authorizations.
The electronic visa system must support different types of authorizations such as work permit, resident permit, student visa and more.
3. Your ability to integrate third parties.
The system should also adapt to situations where the application is made by a third party and not the traveller. Indeed, in many cases, the visa request is made by an agent or a certified company.
A proven framework: Gemalto Visa Management
Did you know that world's largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide is using over ten Gemalto Visa Management engines to serve over 1,000 visa application centres located in over 100 countries across five continents?
Time to find out more?
Several countries have already streamlined and simplified their visa application process. If you are interested in joining them, it's time to talk to Thales about the journey to eVisa and eBorder.