VFS Global

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VFS Global
Type Private company
Founded Mumbai, Maharashtra, India (July 2001 (2001-07))
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Area served Worldwide
Key people
Employees 2,935 (30th April 2014)
Parent Kuoni Group
Website www.vfsglobal.com

VFS Global is a global outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions and governments worldwide. The company manages visa issuance-related administrative and non-judgmental tasks and services, standing as a middlemen between the visa applicant and embassy (decision maker and issuer) . The main tasks performed by VFS are document collection, document listing, document forwarding and acceptance on behalf of its client governments. London based VFS Global is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Kuoni Group (which also owns Kuoni Travel), a public-listed company headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland.

VFS Global serves consular sections of diplomatic missions by providing administrative support: The company offers biometrics services, such as single tenancy and multi-mission/agency solutions; and operations solutions, which include operations support, information dissemination, scrutiny and acceptance of documents, telephone and e-mail help lines, collection and remittance of fees, biometrics enrollment,[1] data reconciliation, database creation, submission to the mission, appointment scheduling, and return delivery of passports. VFS Global also provides services such as dedicated visa application centres and websites, joint visa application centres,[2] waiting lounges, online appointment scheduling facilities and courier pickup services.

It performs non-judgmental tasks related to the visa application process, enabling the missions to focus on the key tasks of assessment and decision-making.

With 708 Visa Application Centres and operations in 83 countries across five continents as at 30 June 2012, VFS Global serves the interests of the diplomatic missions of 38 sovereign governments. On behalf of its clients VFS Global handles over seven million applications (contracted) annually through its ISO certified[3] Visa Application Centres.

History[edit]

VFS Global was established in 2001 as a specialist Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) agency, to serve diplomatic missions and immigration authorities to facilitate the visa application procedures across the world. The company began in Mumbai, India on the initiative of the US State Department, to assist the US Embassy there when it was unable to handle the crowds outside the embassy.

Milestones[edit]

  • UK opens new Visa Application Centres in Mumbai[4]
  • First of its kind Visa Application Centre for Five Countries Conference (5CC) launched in Singapore[5]
  • Government of Austria and VFS Global Launch Austria Visa Application Centre in Erbil, Iraq[6][7]
  • VFS Global opens first Visa Application Centre in Pskov[8]
  • Germany and VFS Global inaugurate Visa Application Centre in Mumbai[9]
  • VFS Global celebrates 75 million applications milestone by encouraging staff to volunteer work time[10]
  • Celebrating success the CSR way[11]
  • VFS Global wins Denmark and the Netherlands global contracts[12]
  • VFS Global wins key Saudi Arabian government visa services contract[13][14]
  • Modernised guidance - New commercial partner VFS Global for UK visa applications in Colombia[15]
  • UK renews partnership with VFS Global; opens 2 Visa Application Centres in Mumbai[16]
  • Heritage walk for expats organised by VFS Global[17]

Notable Contracts[edit]

Recently the company won some important contracts, which further complements its existing portfolio ofaccounts. The company’s global footprint is expanding as a result of its commitment to excellent service delivery.

  • VFS Global wins key Saudi Arabian government visa services contract[13][14]
  • Modernised guidance - New commercial partner VFS Global for UK visa applications in Colombia[18]
  • UK renews partnership with VFS Global; opens 2 Visa Application Centres in Mumbai[19]

Awards & Recognitions[edit]

The company has continuously reinvented itself over the years and has a host of awards and accolades to its credit. The recognition received from the Industry and its clients make the company the most trusted providers of outsourcing and technology services to governments.

  • VFS Global awarded the ‘Capgemini Leadership Award for Innovation 2012 [20][21]
  • Zubin Karkaria conferred Travel Entrepreneur of the Decade Award at ETAA Convention in Dubai[22]
  • VFS Global wins ‘Service Provider of the Year’ award[23]
  • VFS Global wins Dubai Quality Appreciation Award[24]

Controversy[edit]

In May 2007 it was reported[25] that the company's online UK visa application system was flawed. It was also reported that the security flaw had affected online applications from India, Nigeria and Russia. The VFS site was immediately shut down after the technical problem was brought to the attention of the UK media[26] and an independent government investigation was launched[27] by the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). The security breach was first reported by an Indian applicant[28] in December 2005 after which no effective remedial action was taken by either VFS nor UKvisas, the joint Home Office and Foreign & Commonwealth Office unit which runs the UK's visa service through British diplomatic posts overseas. The same applicant went public in May 2007 after he noticed that his earlier warnings were ignored. It is estimated that this security breach had resulted in approximately 50,000 applicants' identities having been possibly compromised until its May 2007 closure, following the media outcry.

The report[29][30][31] of the investigation by the Independent Investigator, Linda Costelloe Baker highlighted organisational failures by both VFS and UKvisas. The report also recommended that the VFS online visa applications not be resumed for applications from India. This has since been replaced by the secure online applications made available directly at the Visa4UK official government website of the UK Border Agency.

Baker also mentioned in the report[32] that following this incident, UKvisas conducted extensive testing and found no evidence that data had been stolen or misused. VFS underestimated what was necessary in order to protect personal data to the levels expected by the UK Data Protections Act. After this incident, several visa application level checks were put in place. Technical processes were also upgraded later to check the records of the online application site.

Ethical and conflict of interest issues related to outsourcing border control to private companies also exist. The UK government has come under fierce criticism for its recent handling of visas, citing welfare and benefits use as the cause,[33] while simultaneously paying taxpayer funds to outsourcing companies based in other countries to handle those same visas. There could also be issues with the protection of citizens due to the fact that private companies can deny services and entry to premises, giving those citizens little opportunity to defend themselves. When visiting a vfs global site, you may not record the session.[34] Whatever goes on there is lost in the mists of time, giving little legal recourse for those unfairly treated.

In November 2007, the UK Information Commissioner's Office announced that it had found the Foreign Office in breach of its obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998. The Information Commissioner's Office required the Foreign Office to sign a statement[35] that it would comply with the Data Protection Act and would not reopen the VFS UK visa online facility. It has been reported by The Guardian[36] that as a result of this ruling, the Foreign Office would review its relationship with VFS and seek to significantly reduce its outsourced work, especially in the area of IT. Consequently, applicants from India today need to apply directly at the Visa4UK official government website for online visa applications.

After the report was issued, VFS introduced various measures to ensure safe and secure business environment. One of them was to make all its centres ISO compliant.[3]

However, since this incident several governments have been critical of VFS Global's abilities and have raised concerns over security.[37] "There's the accountability issue, the privacy issue and why are we outsourcing to a for-profit entity something that belongs in the security mandate?" asked Victor Wong, executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council. Liam Clifford of global visas, a migration advice company, told The Sunday Telegraph: "Once you put this work in the hands of private companies overseas, you no longer have the same protection."

The controversy over information disclosure was particularly difficult for the British Government which was still recovering from the NHS Medical Training Application Service scandal, an online service that had to be suspended[38] following reports of a similar security breach.[39]

Organisation, Monopoly and Dominance[edit]

VFS Global is cited as an organisation established and running from Mumbai, India under Kuoni group. The shareholding or governance structure of VFS Global is not made public as of yet by Kuoni. Various sources cite VFS Global as an example of a monopoly company operating globally in the visa processing outsourcing sector under the ownership of Kuoni group. This means lack of competition, processing standards and administerial dubiousness in this sector has caused a range of confusion for policy makers globally while administering and awarding government contracts through tendering. This has led to problems in visa application pricings, and also caused concerns in the areas of centralised document handling and content security, though VFS claims a streamlined application submission process in all its centres.[40]

It is reported in south east Asia that VFS own staff at its collection offices attempts to abuse its dominant status by making their own rules with visa applicants. This includes entry criteria to the VFS centres and also level of assistance offered to applicants.[41]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Applying for a UK visa in India". Ukinindia.fco.gov.uk. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  2. ^ "Schengen nations' joint visa centre in ME soon". Khaleejtimes.com. 2008-03-30. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  3. ^ a b "Travel & Hospitality: VFS Global - Express Computer". Expresscomputeronline.com. 2008-10-13. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  4. ^ "UK opens new Visa centres in Mumbai". 
  5. ^ "First of its kind Visa Application Centre for Five Countries Conference (5CC) launched in Singapore". 
  6. ^ "Govt. of Austria and VFS Global launch Austria Visa Application Centre in Iraq". 
  7. ^ http://210.210.25.188/vfs-web-development/englishnew/about_us/milestones.asp.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ http://www.pihkva.estemb.ru/eng/news/aid-2732.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ http://www.india.diplo.de/contentblob/4101302/Daten/3817960/GK_Siebert_Events_VAC_Opening14_DD.pdf.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ http://www.prlog.org/12302585-vfs-global-celebrates-75-million-applications-milestone-by-encouraging-staff-to-volunteer-work-time.html.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/general/residents-donate-blood-at-vfs-global-camp-1.1309713.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ http://www.travelbizmonitor.com/vfs-global-wins-denmark-and-the-netherlands-global-contracts-21243.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ a b http://www.kuoni.com/group/group-news/ad-hoc-news/2012/vfs-global-wins-key-saudi-arabian-government-visa-services-contract.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ a b http://www.traveldailymedia.com/135861/vfs-global-wins-saudi-arabia-government-visa-service/.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ https://www.gov.uk/government/world-location-news/new-commercial-partner-vfs-global-for-uk-visa-applications-in-colombia.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ http://www.travelbizmonitor.com/uk-renews-partnership-with-vfs-global-opens-2-visa-application-centres-in-mumbai-23488.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Heritage-walk-for-expats/articleshow/18314254.cms?referral=PM.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ https://www.gov.uk/government/world-location-news/new-commercial-partner-vfs-global-for-uk-visa-applications-in-colombia/.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. ^ http://www.travelbizmonitor.com/uk-renews-partnership-with-vfs-global-opens-2-visa-application-centres-in-mumbai-23488/.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^ "VFS Global awarded The Capgemini Leadership Award for innovation". www.in.capgemini.com. 
  21. ^ "VFS Global awarded The Capgemini Leadership Award for innovation". India Infoline. 
  22. ^ . India Infoline http://www.indiainfoline.com/Markets/News/Zubin-Karkaria-appointed-on-Executive-Board-of-Kuoni-Group/5646389749.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. ^ . Travel Biz Monitor http://www.travelbizmonitor.com/vfs-global-wins-service-provider-of-the-year-award-23616.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ . Travel Biz Monitor http://www.travelbizmonitor.com/vfs-global-wins-dubai-quality-appreciation-award-20369.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^ "Homepage - Channel 4 News". Channel4.com. 1989-04-15. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  26. ^ "Exposed: Indian visa application data accessible to anyone with a web browser". Daniweb.com. 2012-06-20. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  27. ^ [1]
  28. ^ "Open Circuit: Identity Leakage: Trust VFS to reveal all". Sanjibmitra.blogspot.com. 2007-05-10. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  29. ^ "Report of The Independent Investigation". Fco.gov.uk. 2009-11-05. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  30. ^ "Investigator ridicules UK visa site". The Register. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  31. ^ "U.K. government slammed over bug in outsourced Web site". Computerworld. 2007-08-10. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  32. ^ "UK Border Agency | Home Page". Ukvisas.gov.uk. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  33. ^ http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-22833136
  34. ^ http://www.vfsglobal.co.uk/japan/applicationcentre.html
  35. ^ Foreign Office in breach of the Data Protection Act. Information Commissioner’s Office. 13 November 2007. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  36. ^ Bobbie Johnson (2007-11-14). "UK government failed to protect privacy of online visa applications | Technology | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  37. ^ "Private firm's work with visas raises concerns". Toronto: .thestar.com. 2008-10-13. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  38. ^ "Doctors' job website is suspended". BBC NEWS. 26 April 2007. Retrieved 31 March 2008. 
  39. ^ Davey Winder. "I fought the law..". PC Pro. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  40. ^ http://dissidentvoice.org/2013/08/australian-immigration-the-snowden-link/
  41. ^ http://thaiscare.com/2011/10/make-sure-your-uk-visa-application-is-not-refused-because-of-vfs-thailand-ltd/

Country Specific Websites[edit]