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DIAC faces major change as it increases its global footprint

by Sam Murphy •
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The former Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) is entering “a period of major change” as it strives for increased IT cooperation with other countries and improved global processing systems, according to its  2012-13 Annual Report.

The report states DIAC “will continue to expand its global footprint by providing people with greater access to immigration services and will broaden its use of information sharing using biometric exchanges.”

Biometric capabilities

Biometrics has been a focus of the department over 2012-13 with an intent to “enhance the department’s ability—through international and inter-jurisdictional agreements, biometric technology and tools—to acquire (offshore and onshore) and use identity information.”

In 2012, a new eMedical System was rolled out in cooperation with Canada and has been used to process more than 100,000 health cases during its first six months of operation. Of those, more than 72 percent were processed with no manual intervention.

Since 2009, DIAC has been involved in the Five Country Conference (FCC) biometric data sharing program alongside Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and New Zealand.

DIAC is currently developing the capability for automatic sharing of biometric data between the FCC. Sharing has already commenced between Australia and the United States and is expected to be operational between all the countries in coming years.

Currently fingerprint data is manually exchanged between the countries in order to cross-check against a country’s own immigration data holdings.

In 2012, a Request for Tender (RFT) was issued for commercial off the shelf (COTS) software to introduce new facial and fingerprint tracking, resulting in a $1.9 million three year contract being awarded to 3M Australia. The contract runs from February 2013 to February 2016.

Automatic biometric data capabilities are needed to assist in coping with the increasing influx of people. The Department anticipates that by 2020 there will be 50 million arrivals and departures across Australian borders in comparison to the 33 million seen in 2012-13.

The Director of Intent Management and Analytics, Klaus Felsche said “The Department is responding by aiming to be a global leader in the emerging science of predictive analytics in border management.”

Big Data supports risk assessments

DIAC is currently trialling a border risk identification system (BRIS) that uses real time analytics and scans all in-coming travellers. It is used to assist immigration officers in better identifying risk-associated people entering the country and will also be used at overseas locations to intercept passengers before they board for Australia.

“It is designed to integrate automated risk modelling into border processing and assist airport staff in identifying and referring travellers of concern,” the report states.

Since 2010, The Risk, Fraud and Identity Division (RFID) has worked towards developing capabilities to allow the department to cope with the variety and vast amount of data required to be managed.

The following analytics-based capabilities have been developed and implemented:

  • Risk Tiering- models to help determine the nature and degree of risks associated with visa applications;
  • A risk scoring engine that identifies high-level risk through the use of statistical models to process data in real time;
  • BRIS;
  • A network analytics capability that can identify hidden connections between people and organisations to assist in investigations and decision-making; and
  • An enhanced alerts system that tracks the future trends in traveller arrivals and alerts the department when unusual patterns are detected.

The report states “The department continually develops its capabilities in this field to ensure that it continues to effectively manage Australia’s migration and citizenship programs.”

Greater access to immigration services

Another goal of the agency is to expand its role globally by “providing people with greater access to immigration services in an increasing number of locations”.

DIAC has opened a number of service centres abroad this year. Australian Visa Application Centres (AVACs) are now operated by Service Delivery Partners (SDPs), offering varying services depending on location. In September 2012, AVACs were opened in Beijing and Shanghai, while a call centre in Guangzhou became available in July 2013. In December 2012, three AVACs with biometric collection capabilities were opened in Pakistan.

The Department is also moving towards increased online visa lodgement and anticipates that all countries will be able to lodge and pay for visas online by 2013-14.  Papua New Guinea was the first country to be granted access to the system in June 2013.

Domestic cooperation

The Department is not only cooperating internationally but with other agencies in Australia as well.

It has an arrangement in place with DFAT and Austrade for “the provision of management services at overseas ports”. As well as management services the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) cover agency responsibilities, performance indicators and cost recovery arrangements.

In 2012 DIAC signed new three year contracts with both DFAT and Austrade and pays global service fees to the two departments for delivering these services. In 2012-13 DIAC paid $5.2 million to DFAT and $600,000 to AusTrade.

View Department of Immigration and Border Protection (formerly DIAC) profile in GovFacts >>>


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