KIGA Baselland: Applying for work permits online

30. June 2003

With the pilot project “ePublic BL“, the canton of Baselland has implemented its first e-Government application. Since December 2002, companies can apply for work permits for foreign workers online. Registered firms can also view their own data in the ZAR (Central Foreigners’ Register), access their own company profile, receive automatic notification about permits which are due to expire and status reports about ongoing aplications. The data is regularly matched with government records via an interface to the ZAR.

1. Initial situation

The Office for Industry, Commerce and Labour (KIGA) of the canton of Basel-Landschaft is amongst other things responsible for screening applications for foreign workers in relation to the labour market, including all quota issues. Local companies lodge applications for work permits for residents, cross-border commuters, self-employed workers and service providers to the government department. After checking the applications in relation to the labour market, the KIGA forwards the applications to the Office for Migration (previously the Aliens Police Department), which is responsible for the formal arrangement of the residency and for issuing the foreign citizens pass. Only the permits for cross-border commuters are processed autonomously by the KIGA. The permit procedure was hitherto processed exclusively using paper-based methods.

Permit procedures are administration services which call for an explanation from the point of view of the applicant. Applicants are not intuitively sure which type of permit they have to choose. The processing time for an application depends largely on whether the application and the enclosures have been filled in correctly and have been submitted to the KIGA in full. The process is delayed in up to 50% of cases by subsequent demands for missing documents due to incorrect information, telephone enquiries from applicants and due to the postal forwarding of individual documents.

2. “ePublic BL“ project

At the end of 2001, the Basel-Landschaft canton decided to carry out a pilot project in the field of e-Government. The project was intended to show a certain complexity, in order to be able to demonstrate the benefits of e-Government for all eligible groups. The following criteria were therefore defined for the pilot project:

  • fast implementability
  • the focus is on typical administration services
  • several administration offices are affected by the procedure
  • internal processes can be reorganised and optimised with the launch of an e-Government solution
  • a critical mass of transactions is achieved
  • a benefit for the eligible groups can be proven
  • the launch involves a motivated department with an interest in e-Government

The KIGA fulfilled the aforementioned criteria with the core process «work permits». The benefit effects for the main customer, the business community, were ranked especially highly in this case. The number of potential transactions (processing of applications for work permits) in 2003 was put at 12,000. The project “Work permits online” was started at the beginning of 2001 under the working title “ePublic BL”.

Project goals:
Companies were to be provided with an e-Government solution with which they could receive simple, efficient and up-to-date access to administration services. The design of a needs-oriented solution also included the adjustment of internal processes. In doing so, basic legal requirements (e.g. bilateral contracts) and data protection requirements had to be adhered to. The aim of the pilot project was also to demonstrate the potential of e-Government as a model system. Part of the project included demonstrating and documenting the systematic procedure. With the selected process, an archetypal administration process was chosen (granting permits). The project was meant to serve as a reference project for other e-Government solutions in the canton of Basel-Landschaft.

Project organisation:
The project has been initiated by the working group of the specialist group for IT (FGI) of the canton of Basel-Landschaft. Christoph Rinlisbacher from the Justice, Police and Military Department of Basel-Landschaft managed the project. The project team included employees from the KIGA management and data protection representatives from the canton. The project was also supported externally in phases: the analysis and design phase was carried out by a competence centre for E-Business and a competence centre for e-Government. Its subsequent implementation was carried out by Concevis AG (former: De Simone & Osswald AG), Basel.

3. Security requirements

In the planning phase, the technical and/or organisation requirements of the solution were defined and the conceptual security requirements (cultural, social, political and legal) were described in the specialist concept. The goals were implemented within the close context of standard administration practice and adapted to individual requirements. Sensitive personal data is recorded and stored within the scope of work permits. To achieve the critical mass of transactions, the trust of users must be won, and so the following security requirements were already incorporated into the project by the data protection representatives during the concept phase:

  1. For communication and transactions, confidentiality, integrity and authentication of data (by using the most innovative technologies) must be protected.
  2. Only legally required data should be ascertained (principle of data economy).
  3. Customers should always be able to comprehend the reason why they have to provide certain information. The owner of the data collection and the duration of data storage must also be known.
  4. Users have the right to check their own data at all times and to demand that it is corrected or deleted.
  5. Availability and functional reliability of the system and role concept:
  6. Transactions must be legally valid.

4. Conception

Role concept:
A role concept has been derived from the security requirements:
Companies use the system as a “guest” or as a “registered company”. Guest companies can apply for permits and view current permits. Corporate or personal data must, however, be reinputted for each permit. Registered companies can register with the allocated start account. In comparison with guest companies, they have access to extended functionalities. The company designates a supervisor for their use, who can in turn nominate administrators whose access rights they manage. The administrators carry out legally valid processes online and have access to the corporate and personal data stored in the web system. Registered companies can read and partially process their own corporate data which has been deposited in the solution. This speeds up the entry of applications. Registered companies are also automatically informed by e-mail six weeks before a permit expires.

Solution principles and rules:
Companies in the Basel-Landschaft canton can apply for permits online, view their status and manage existing permits. The applicant is supported by an interactive assistant during this process, which is structured in the form of individual masks (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Interactive assistant
Fig. 1: Interactive assistant [Translations: Grenzgängerbewilligung Neuerteilung: Reissue of a cross-border commuter’s permit, Gesuch um eine Grenzgängerbewilligung EG/EFTA: Application for an EU/EFTA cross-border commuter’s permit, Mitarbeiter/in: Employee, Name: Surname, Vorname: first name, Geburtsdatum: date of birth, Geburtsname: Birth name, Zivilstand: marital status, Staatsangehörigkeit: nationality, Strasse: street, PLZ: postcode, Ort: place, Land: country, Hat der Arbeitnehmer/die Arbeitnehmerin bereits früher schon einemal in der Schweiz gearbeitet? Wenn ja, bis wann?: Has the employee already worked in Switzerland? If yes, until when?]

During the entire entry dialogue a help function is also available and the input of data can be interrupted at any time and continued again later. When the inputting process has been completed, the relevant government form is created as a pdf file. The applicant prints off this form and signs it. In addition to the application form, the web system creates a fax cover sheet with a barcode. All the necessary enclosures for the application are attached to the fax cover sheet. The applicant sends the documents to the KIGA by fax. Based on the barcode, the system allocates the forwarded documents to an application. Alternatively, the application and enclosures can be forwarded to the KIGA as a file upload where the data is stored electronically. It is not necessary to print out documents. If an application cannot be allocated by the system, the system generates a message and the documents are allocated manually. Staff at the KIGA process the applications electronically. If a permit is due to be renewed, registered companies are informed automatically six weeks before the permit expires.

Data protection:
The confidentiality of the personal data is ensured via an encrypted connection for data transmission. Only those personal data are recorded that are absolutely neccesary for processing applications. The applicants are notified of the fact that a copy of the application is stored at the KIGA. After the application (including appendices to the KIGA) has been successfully transmitted, the applicant receives confirmation. The details entered cannot be modified by the KIGA.

5. Implementation

Technical solution:
User ID and passwords protect the web interface against unauthorised access. The transmitted data is encrypted with a 128-bit SSL. The multi-tier security system of the cantonal infrastructure protects the stored data from unauthorised access. The canton of Basel-Landschaft chose a standard system platform. The solution was developed solely on the .Net framework and programmed in C#. The SQL server 2000, the internet information server and a 5.5 exchange server were used. .Net web services were used to map the business logic.

Security review:
The canton of Basel-Landschaft hired an external firm to carry out a security review for the solution. The tests were carried out on a test system and concentrated on the areas of application, authentication, authorisation, session management and web servers.
The assessment criteria were derived directly from the concept. With operations such as external penetration via internet (user level), various interviews, the study of documentation and access to the web server the system was checked for security deficiencies.

6. Benefits

The fact that the internet can be used in a meaningful way to support administration services can be demonstrated based on the following examination of benefits:

Benefits from the point of view of administration:

  • The consistent tailoring of the project to customer benefits (companies) contributes to the attractiveness of the location.
  • Reforms arising from bilateral contracts, for example, can simply be implemented in the solution.
  • The number of telephone enquiries has gone down, as customers can check the status of their applications themselves. The amount of post and the use of paper has decreased significantly. Work processes are simplified and speeded up. The application process is more transparent.
  • The application data is available electronically.
  • The number of incorrectly filled in or incomplete applications is minimised.
  • It is possible to deposit reasons for rejecting applications in the web system.
  • Public orders can be fulfilled with few resources.
  • The project definition with phases and milestones can be used as a model for future e-Government projects.

Benefits from the pont of view of companies:

  • An additional channel is available for making applications which is available at all times.
  • Companies can obtain an overview and status report of all permits and e-mail confirmation about applications which are running out.
  • The administrative procedure is simplified.
  • Transparency and comprehensibility are increased, as customers can regularly check up on the status of their application and reasons for rejection.
  • In the case of registered companies, corporate data is stored and automatically included when the application is recorded.
  • In addition to the supervisor, registered companies can designate supervisors who have access to the system.
  • Corporate data is deposited in the system and can be mutated if necessary.
  • The application and the enclosures can be easily submitted by fax or file upload.

7. Lessons learned

  • Falling back on the existing experiences of other cantons saves on resources.
  • Advance declarations of needs by customers during the analysis phase provided important findings for the concept phase.
  • Extensive tests (including with reference customers) increase customer focus and user-friendliness.
  • Five providers were already called in during the concept phase within the scope of a request for information (RFI). They incorporated their recommendations and variants prior to actual implementation. Information about products, their properties and the advantages and disadvantages of various solution scenarios could be taken into account.
  • Early integration of implementing parties prevents the pursuit of irrelevant alternatives during the concept phase.

8. The solution in operation

Since 5 December 2002, applications for work permits can be processed online. The web interface maps all application processes, provides information on the subject of permits and offers support services for all types of permits. Approximately 3,000 local companies were invited to use the online counter of the KIGA prior to its launch. One month later 840 companies had already registered and number of companies who are currently involved stands at 890. The KIGA receives between 42 and 45 online applications per day. The number of applications which have been submitted online so far currently stands at 5,106.

The canton of Zurich has implemented an analogue application under the name “eWorkPermits”. The electronic counter for work permits has been online since February 2003. Information about the case study.

Owner/s of the solution

KIGA - Baselland
Christine Degen, Head of the department for foreigners’ permits
Roman Zaugg, Staff division for scientific processing
Industry: Public authorities/Social insurance/Police/Armed forces, Office for Industry, Commerce and Labour
Company size: Medium-sized enterpriseKIGA - Baselland

Solution partner/s

Christoph Rindlisbacher, IT Project Manager
Justiz und Polizeidepartement Basel-Landschaft
Ralf Wölfle
Fachhochschule beider Basel FHBB
Joel Meir, design
Institut für Wirtschaft und Verwaltung IWV
Christoph Schüpbach, implementation partner
Concevis AG

Case study author/s

Christoph Rindlisbacher
Justiz und Polizeidepartement Basel-Landschaft
Joel Meir
Institut für Wirtschaft und Verwaltung IWV
Matthias J. Göckel
Fachhochschule beider Basel FHBB

30. June 2003
Meir; Joel; Rindlisbacher; Christoph; Göckel; Matthias (2003): KIGA Baselland: Applying for work permits online in: eGov Präsenz; 02/2003; pp. 23-25.

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