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April 5, 2010

Online handling of British visa applications by US company sparks off security fears

     London: The online handling of British visa applications by an American firm has sparked off security fears here, reports The Telegraph. British visa applicants have been asked to apply online through Computer Services Corporation websites instead of attending a British embassy and without conducting face-to-face interviews with any British diplomatic staff. CSC won the 300 million-pound five-year contract in 2007, along with the Swiss-based firm VSF Global, to conduct outsourced visa checks for Britain . Although the Home Office still has the final say in whether a visa is accepted, security experts fear that the "tick box system" makes it easier for bogus applicants and potential terrorists to slip through the net. Sir Andrew Green, a former British Ambassador and Director for the Middle East in the Foreign Office, said: "The crucial interview with experienced staff has been replaced with a system where, as long as you say the right thing on the forms and have the right documents, your application will be approved." He told the Mail on Sunday: "The government says that official still have the final say but the reality is that, unless someone in London picks up on a forged document or some other scam, the filtering is done "in country" by the agency staff and it would be rare for someone in Whitehall to raise any questions." CSC and VSF Global deal with around 80 per cent of the 2.75 million visa applications each year from 109 countries. Around two million of these are successful.
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