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Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland: world-class visa service through digitalisation

Streamlining Finland's visa system cuts waiting times and reduces manual hours.

Tieto Corporation

Keilalahdentie 2-4 FI-02150 Espoo Finland

'The development of the visa process and system paved the way for the reorganisation of the entire service production model. Nowhere else in the world is a visa service process executed as effectively. Even though we get up to 10,000 Russian clients a day, the waiting time for the service desk is approximately one minute,' stated Ari Uusikartano, Chief Information Officer, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

The processing of visa applications is not the primary task of Finland’s diplomatic missions abroad. When the number of visa applications from Russia rose to 1.5 million a year at the end of the 2000s, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland had to reconsider the entire visa service production model.

'The Consulate General of Finland in St Petersburg had up to 200 employees working in two shifts on Russian visa applications. We were unable to consistently provide the service within the agreed time frame for the Schengen area,' stated Uusikartano.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs outsourced the receipt of visa applications and the submission of decisions, implemented electronic application materials and processes, and focused instead on effective decision-making. The Ministry set up a visa service centre in Kouvola, Finland, which currently processes nearly all visa applications made in Russia and Ukraine.

'We wanted to ensure that we were able to provide the visa service within the agreed processing times and that we have flexible resources across our network to handle possible peaks in the number of applications,' explained Uusikartano.

Increased reliability through biometrics

Finland’s national visa system (SUVI) governs entry into Finland from non-Schengen countries. SUVI is a long life-cycle system provided by us, which has been systematically modernised and developed to meet current EU and Schengen requirements. When the Ministry for Foreign Affairs altered the visa service production model, we supported this change as an application developer and implemented critical integrations.

We built interfaces between SUVI and the European Union visa information system and various background systems to enable smooth data exchange. The latest additions to facilitate identification were biometric identifiers, in other words a facial image and fingerprints. Biometrics aim to eradicate illegal entry and prevent crime.

'We built integration with fingerprint readers from external service providers. When fingerprints are scanned, the data is stored in standard form in the common visa system of Schengen countries. SUVI also offers an interface for other authorities to make queries with fingerprint data,' stated Customer Manager Timo Rauhamäki, Tieto.

Flexible visa services according to demand

The digitalisation and reorganisation of the visa service process has unified and streamlined the operation. The quality has also improved, as according to Uusikartano, deviations have diminished to one-tenth of earlier figures. You can now get a visa to Finland in 10 days as required by Schengen area regulations.

'Today, we get fewer applications that are missing background information or appendices. Previously, we had 10 employees working on deviations alone; now the same work is done by four part-time employees,' Uusikartano stated.

Since the boom years of Russian visa applications, the number of applications dropped to approximately 700,000 in 2015. The new service production model allows us to meet the changing demand in visas. The digital transfer of application material between different operators means that the processing is no longer dependent on time and place. The number of visa processing employees in the Consulate General of Finland in St Petersburg has been cut from 200 to 10.

Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland promotes the security and welfare of Finland and Finnish people, and acts for a safe and just world. Finland’s national visa system (SUVI) governs entry into Finland from non-Schengen countries.
http://www.formin.finland.fi/

The challenge

SUVI is a critical system that must be operational at all times. EU and Schengen area regulations set requirements for the SUVI system and its development. The high number of Russian applications challenged the visa service process.

The solution

The long life-cycle system was modernised to meet current challenges and EU requirements. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland digitalised the visa service process and outsourced the receipt of applications and the submission of decisions. We built the critical system integrations demanded by this change in the operation model. We also built interfaces between SUVI and the European Union visa information system and various background systems to enable smooth data exchange.

The benefits

Finland has world-class efficiency in its visa service process. The critical basic system, SUVI, has paved the way for a wider reorganisation through digitalisation.

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