French IT consultancy firm Sopra Steria has secured a five-year contract with the Home Office to validate and digitise passport application forms.

From October Sopra Steria will be responsible for scanning key documents for British passport applications, validating their authenticity and uploading them onto a digital platform.

The passport data will be stored by Iron Mountain, a US enterprise IT firm that is working in partnership with Sopra Steria.

The deal forms part of HM Passport Office’s digital transformation plans. The two firms will run operations from two service centres in Corby and Hemel Hempstead.

“This builds on a long-standing partnership between Sopra Steria and HM Passport Office and will help streamline the service for millions of people, in the UK and overseas, who apply for a passport every year,” said Adrian Fieldhouse, managing director of Sopra Steria’s government sector.

“Scanning, validation and storage (SVS) is the next step in the digital transformation process for HM Passport Office and will help to deliver more modern and efficient public services underpinned by a fully-digitalised system.

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By GlobalData

Phil Shepley, General Manager UK, Ireland & Nordics at Iron Mountain said:

“We are delighted to be partnering with Sopra Steria to support HM Passport Office’s digital transformation journey.

“UK citizens rely on passport application processing and this SVS service will ensure that it is more reliable, secure and efficient than ever before.”

Sopra Steria’s previous government contracts

Sopra Steria has been working with HM Passport Office for 11 years. The firm came under criticism last year for “extortionate” fees and long travel distances for those applying for UK status ahead of the Brexit settled status deadline.

Previously visa applicants could go to their local post office to submit passport documents. After the Home Office outsourced the process to Sopra Steria, they were limited to six “core centres” around the country for the free service or faced with charges to access a further 51 processing centres.

Sopra Steria came under similar criticism for delays and costs while running visa services for international students.

At the time Sopra Steria rejected suggestions its charges are excessive.

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