UK travel easier with new e-visa services
Posted on: Sat 15-Nov-2014
Dubai: New visa services are making it easier for UAE residents to travel to the United Kingdom and abroad at shorter notice and with greater ease, thanks to new technology.
The UK has announced its extending its Super Priority Visa service to include visit visa applications, and certain work and study applications, submitted at UK visa application centres in a number of international cities, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The service will turn around visa applications within 24 hours at an additional cost of £600 (Dh3,471).
This means that applications submitted at the UK visa application centre in Abu Dhabi or Dubai by, among others, GCC nationals will be processed within 24 hours at the extra cost.
The UK Ambassador to the UAE, Philip Parham said, “I am delighted that we will introduce a 24-hour visa service for applicants in the UAE by April next year. This is another example of the innovative ways in which the UK visa service addresses the needs of its customers. Already this year, we have introduced the Electronic Visa Waiver for Emiratis and over 40,000 Electronic Visa Waivers have been completed by Emirati nationals since the start of the year. These improvements will help to ensure that the UK remains a top business and leisure destination.”
A new app, meanwhile, is coming to Dubai to make the handling of e-visas on smartphones much more manageable, developers said.
Using what’s called Smart Travel app, travellers can “drop” e-visas from their smartphone into their e-passport.
The app does away with the need to physically collect visas from embassies, carry paper visas on trips, or have them stamped into passports.
The system, developed by digital security company Gemalto, was first shown at Gitex Technology Week recently.
“A lot of momentum has been generated around the solution, including from governments in the GCC,” said Hsin Hanna, vice-president, global marketing communication, Gemalto.
“Individuals seeking eVisa will be required to apply on eGovernment services platform. Once the visa is received on a near field communications — NFC — enabled mobile device, it can be transferred onto an electronic passport, which is embedded with a chip, onto which the visa will be transferred.”
The transfer takes place by simply tapping the phone on the passport and the system works “without compromising on the security needs of individuals and governments,” said Hisham Surakhi, vice-president, government programmes Middle East, Gemalto.
The log-in to the eGovernment platform is based on “secure strong authentication of the user and PKI [Public Key Infrastructure] signature.”
PKI is a system that manages digital certificates. A growing number of countries have started issuing e-visas and e-passports embedded with chips. The UAE issues e-passports and so does the US, Albania, Australia, Nigeria and several other countries.
Systems such as Smart Travel will also make it possible for the e-visa to be stored on the e-passport chip, by transferring it from the NFC mobile device.
An e-passport is a combined paper and electronic passport embedded with a microchip that stores biometric information such as the bearer’s fingerprint profile, picture and eye scan.
Immigration officials can ‘read’ the information on the chip using a microchip reading device, providing an additional verification that the passport is genuine and cross checking the identity of the bearer with the printed information on the passport.
Using biometric capturing devices, they can also confirm if the traveller’s biometrics in the e-passport and those taken on the spot match up. (GN)



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