[WATCH] New online system for foreigners' work permit applications being tested

The system will allow employers to apply for work permits for non-EU nationals online and aims to speed up the process, Julia Farrugia Portelli says

Reforms parliamentary secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli was addressing a press conference on the implementation of the government's simplification measures on Wednesday
Reforms parliamentary secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli was addressing a press conference on the implementation of the government's simplification measures on Wednesday

A new system allowing employers to apply online for work permits for third country nationals is on the cards, Julia Farrugia Portelli announced.

The reforms parliamentary secretary said the system was currently in its testing phase, and that the government intended to launch it later this year.

Asked by this newspaper whether the recent extension in Identity Malta’s opening hours - in a bid to target the issue of long queues of foreigners forming daily outside its offices to apply for work and residence permits - would be enough to deal with the delays in permit processing, Farrugia Portelli indicated that the new online system would be contributing towards addressing the matter.

“A new online processing system is currently being tested, and I believe there is a lot we can do to improve the way we do things,” Farrugia Portelli said, “The idea behind the new system will be to enable Maltese employers to apply for a number of services online.”

The parliamentary secretary, who was addressing a press briefing on the implementation of the government simplification measures today, said employers would be able to submit the required forms for foreign employees online.

“The aim is for the project, which is currently in its pilot stage, to be launched later this year,” she said.

Government looking at AI for next generation of public services

Speaking at the briefing, Principal permanent secretary Mario Cutajar noted that the government’s first mission for the public service had been to turn it into a 24/7 service for the people.

Now that this plan has been put in place, the government has started working on introducing the “once only” principal, he said. This will significantly simplify the process for citizens to obtain services from the government through requiring of them that they supply any necessary information only once, without having to repeatedly fill in different forms demanding the same data.

For this principal to be put into effect, the adequate transfer of data between the government’s different departments is paramount, Cutajar underlined, adding that 2021 has been set as a target date for its implementation.

“We are striving to implement the ‘once only’ principle, whereby people only have to give their details once, and these then continue being used throughout the various services,” he said, “This was a very complicated change to bring about, since several government databases were unable to communicate with each other due to the limitations of the technology which was in place.”

“The whole plan depends on the transferring of data across departments. So this is our idea and we must now put it in place.. Our strategy sets out that it has to be implemented by 2021.”

The government, however, was already thinking of what would come after this step and is now eyeing the use of Artificial Intelligence to continue improving the public service, he said.

“We are already thinking of the future and of reaping the benefits AI. We have to change our approach and start using this technology,” he underscored, “The public service wants to seize to opportunities AI offers which will allow it to not only act promptly, but to help the people using the service to take the next required step in the process. Through this, obtaining government services won’t remain a burden or a worry for them.”

Cutajar, pointing out that statistics showed that 70% of the Maltese people had faith in the civil service, added that AI would transform “a brilliant public service into an exceptional public service.”