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In January 2014 the Security Industry Authority will stop issuing paper-based licence applications, Vigilance can reveal.

According to a source at the SIA, for individuals, the only way to apply for a new licence will be to fill in their application online at the SIA website; they will then be told which identity and other documents to take to one of over 750 post offices around the country to complete their application.

The source explains the Post Office will complete licence applications by:

Checking and returning the applicants documents,

Taking a digital photograph and an electronic signature, and

Taking payment of the application fee.

The applicant's photograph and signature are sent to the SIA electronically by the Post Office. The SIA will then add them to the application information already received and continue with its checks, just as it does today.

The service with the Post Office makes applying for a new SIA licence easier and cheaper; most applicants will no longer need to post valuable documents and supply a photograph, which can be costly and inconvenient.

Individuals renewing their licence can use the SIA's telephone renewals service, as now.

For businesses, the SIA will continue to offer the bulk application service - a service used by companies to manage the completion and submission of new applications on behalf of their employees. However, to use this facility the registered company sponsor will be expected to apply for an exemption.

The SIA's Business Support team will be contacting registered company sponsors to discuss the exemption process with them.

The SIA's e-Renewals service - which allows companies to renew SIA licences, or apply for additional licences, on behalf of their staff - will continue and company sponsors for this service will continue to be accepted by the SIA.

Charlotte Jennings, Deputy Director Operations, said: "The private security industry has been telling us for some time they want a faster and more efficient method of applying for new licences. We have listened to the industry and worked with them to introduce the new application service with the Post Office, which was launched in July 2013.

"The SIA is committed to providing an easier, cheaper and quicker service to all its applicants. The move away from paper-based applications is a crucial step in achieving that.

"The face to face element of the new service will reduce errors, which can cause applications to be rejected, and will help to discourage fraud."