The Home Office – discovering the real problem

The official logo of the Home Office

The Home Office’s Working and Study Visas allow foreign citizens to come to the UK for fixed periods of time. These visas are applied for by the employer or academic institution the person will be employed by or studying with.

The support IT for this services was due for replacement and the intention was to keep the existing processes the same. Nat explored the real life workings of the process from the viewpoints of:

  • people who had or were intending to come to the UK to work or study
  • employers and academic institutions – the ‘sponsors’ – applying for the visas
  • staff processing applications

User research demonstrated that the main user need was ‘I don’t want to break the law’. However, the internal processes had, over time, become so opaque that applicants were sending in excessive amounts of documentation and other information they considered ‘evidence’ in support of their application. This extended processing times and created unnecessary workloads for Home Office staff.

The evidence was used to ‘reset’ the approach for the subsequent Alpha phase shifting the focus from replacing IT to meeting user needs, explaining process in an easily understood way and simplifying the roles and responsibilities of visa sponsors.