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Post Office wins contract to take snaps of foreigners

Checks on non-Brit residents to include online service for employers

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The Post Office has won a contract to take photographs and fingerprints of foreign nationals seeking biometric residence permits (BRPs).

Immigration minister Damian Green announced the plan as part of a package of measures, also including an online checking service for employers, aimed at reducing the number of illegal workers in the UK. They are included in the draft Immigration (Biometric Registration) Regulations 2012, which will complete the rollout of BRPs to all foreign nationals in the UK applying to extend their stays to more than six months.

From 29 February 2012, BRPs will be issued to more categories of foreign nationals, including refugees and those granted permission to settle in the UK. The anticipated increase in demand has led the Home Office to award a four-year contract, with a value of £36.4m, to the Post Office to collect the information and biometric details from applicants. It will provide a network of about 100 locations from the spring of 2012.

The online checking service is scheduled to become available around the same time. It will make it possible for potential employers to run real time checks on permits presented by job applicants to verify their identity and right to work in the UK.

Green said: "It is vital that we work with employers to give them the tools they need to meet their obligations.

"Our new online checking service will also turn up the pressure on those who wish to live and work here illegally. The message is clear – the UK is no longer a soft touch for illegal workers."

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are expected to lead to a temporary surge in demand for BRPs. Green said in a written statement to Parliament that no major technical changes are to be made to the systems between 30 March and 8 November, but that after that the government will produce new policy proposals for the final stage of the roll out.

According to the Home Office, about 600,000 BRPs have been issued since their introduction in November 2008.

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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