Legal action to challenge Home Office use of secret algorithm to assess visa applications

It has come to light that the Home Office is using a secretive algorithm, which it describes as digital “streaming tool,” to sift visa applications. So far they have refused to disclose much information about how the algorithm works, hiding behind the “Immigration Exemption” to the Freedom of Information Act.

We do know that the algorithm scans applications and directs them into a fast lane (Green), a slow lane (Yellow), or a full digital pat-down (Red). It seems clear that people’s right to come to the UK to work, study, or see loved ones, is being affected by this shadowy and unaccountable use of software by the government.

We’re concerned that this algorithm could be yet another example of the “hostile environment” policy towards immigrants which brought us “Go Home” vans and led to the Windrush scandal.

As far as we can tell, the algorithm is using problematic and biased criteria, like nationality, to choose which “stream” you get in. People from rich white countries get “Speedy Boarding” – poorer people of colour get pushed to the back of the queue.

We are seeking a judicial review to fix this misuse of digital technology. We will use the law to find out exactly what the algorithm is and what it does.

So far we have served the Home Office with a “pre-action” letter, and are awaiting their response. We have also launched a crowd-funder to raise money for the legal challenge. Click the Donate box below to pitch in. You can also read more about the case in this Guardian article.