Immigration gets $95m makeover

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James Riley

Australia’s immigration and border protection tech processes will undergo a $95 million digital transformation in an effort to strengthen and speed-up the visa process.

Announced in this year’s federal budget handed down by Treasurer Scott Morrison on Tuesday, the funding will go towards supporting new technologies in immigration and border protection to “bolster the prosperity and protect Australia into the future”.

“In a world of mass mobility, Australia needs to modernise its visa processes to facilitate economic growth and strengthen intelligence measures at the border to counter security threats,” an Immigration and Border Protection department statement said.

“Australia is committed to being a world leader in innovative border measures to protect our community and facilitate trade and travel.”

The large funding boost will provide support and upgrades to the existing IT system that process visas and also facilitate for the eventual replacing of this system with a newer, more efficient platform.

From this funding, $59.9 million will be provided over four years to enhance biometric storage and processing capabilities to “contribute to a safer border and safer Australia”.

This will facilitate high-volume biometric matching, storing, analysis and data sharing of facial image and fingerprint biometrics through the introduction of new technology, the department said.

The tech upgrade is aiming to improve the detection of people of interest and speed up the approval process for legitimate travelers.

The tech upgrades will begin in July this year.

The government has also committed $35.4 million to explore the creation of an entirely new visa processing online platform to “better manage risk, increase efficiency in processing and improve the visa applicant experience”.

Immigration and Border Force officers facilitate more than 700,000 people arriving and departing Australia each week, and this number is set to increase by about 20 per cent over the coming years.

To combat this growing challenge, government will provide the funding to explore new technologies with the market in establishing the platform.

The government funding is on top of the $99.2 million allocated in last year’s budget for visa risk assessment capabilities, allowing for “risks” to be detected before an individual reaches Australia.

The Australian Federal Police also received a funding boost for its tech capabilities in the budget, with the $321 million allocated in part going towards digital forensics and biometrics.

The funding will “equip the AFP with new capabilities and greater flexibility to respond rapidly to emerging crimes todat and into the future”.

The additional funding, announced earlier this week, is the single largest for the AFP’s domestic operations in a decade, and will aim to “bolster the capability of the AFP to strengthen the protection of all Australians”.

The funding will provide for 300 additional officers, including 100 intelligence experts, 100 tactical response and covert surveillance operators and almost 100 forensic specialists.

The AFP’s forensic and intelligence capabilities will be improved, including digital forensics, biometrics and forensic intelligence.

“This will make the AFP a more responsive and robust organisation, with expert skills and world-leading technology at its core,” the department said in a statement

The cash injection is the “first step in the AFP’s 10-year plan to deliver a new vision for the organisation”, the department said.


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