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Rapid response support for UKVI

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) required additional Biometric Enrolment Stations (BES) across Europe to support the Ukraine refugee crisis response.

Biometrics are physical characteristics which are used to identify individuals. These include fingerprint mapping and facial recognition. The Home Office needed to rapidly increase the number of biometric stations to enable the UK Government to deliver on its commitment to welcome Ukrainian refugees into the country.

Quick thinking saved weeks

On 7 March 2022, UKVI asked FCDO Services to confirm how many BES units we could prepare and urgently deploy to key locations in Europe.

The Secure Mobility Management team quickly identified seven potential BES units from our stocks. Five of these were used in the 2021 evacuation effort in Afghanistan, and had been kept configured in case of another incident.

As a direct result, the team quickly adapted the units to a new Visa Application Centre ID useable in Europe. Plus, they only needed to do minimal software patching to get them ready to go.

The remaining kits were built from spares we keep on hand. A standard BES build usually takes weeks, not days, but the team had regularly patched and updated the spares. This saved precious time, as the kits were essentially 75% complete already.

Cross-team collaboration

The FCDO Services Helpdesk earmarked certificate-loaded Smartcards, needed as part of BES security, and allocated resources to configure them. These were passed to our Secure Mobility Management team for testing.

Next, the Application Support team confirmed the routing of the Visa applications was correct and that no technical issues were found.

Lastly, our Logistics team identified the best despatch route and transport method. They planned the fastest route out of Hanslope Park into Europe. This meant that the BES units could arrive on location in just two to three days, which the customer was happy with.

An agile response

Our teams worked extended days back to back, allowing FCDO Services to declare its operational readiness on 9 March. Given the standard BES build speed, this extraordinary two day turnaround was down to a monumental team effort.

“Thank you for the mobilisation of resources at short notice to support us in our response to the Ukraine situation. Without your assistance we could not have put in place the routing or workarounds that are currently critical to our operational response.”

Head of Supplier and Casework IT, Cross Cutting Operations, Visas and Citizenship, UK Visas and Immigration