VFS Global

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VFS Global
Private company
FoundedMumbai, Maharashtra, India (July 2001 (2001-07))
HeadquartersDubai, United Arab Emirates
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
Number of employees
8789 (31 July 2018)
Websitewww.vfsglobal.com Edit this on Wikidata

VFS Global is an outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide.[1] The company manages visa and passport issuance-related administrative and non-discretionary tasks for its client governments. It is based in Dubai.

The company operates in 139 countries on behalf of its 60 client governments. It has processed over 180 million applications since it commenced operations in 2001.[2]


History[edit]

VFS(Visa Facilitation Service) Global was established in Mumbai in 2001, when it set up three Visa Application Centres for its first client government – the United States of America. By 2005 VFS Global served eleven governments – including the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. In 2007 it won its first global account from UK Visas and Immigration for operations across 33 countries.

VFS Global works predominantly with a user-pay revenue model where it receives its service fee directly from the visa applicants, in addition to the visa fees which are remitted to the diplomatic mission.

Recent contracts[edit]

VFS Global was selected by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany to process visas in select locations in the regions of North Africa and Middle East. This included about ten countries in both regions Centres in the new regions will be launched in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Manama on 1 February 2018.[3]

2017 was a busy year for the company as eight new client governments were added. This included Armenia, Bahrain, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, Nigeria, Slovakia and Ukraine whereby VFS Global was servicing 58 client governments globally by offering a range of visa, permit, passport, consular, identity and citizen services at the end of the year.[4]

VFS Global was recently re-awarded visa processing services contracts by the Government of Italy (with whom they share a partnership of close to 14 years) in Cameroon, Ghana and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for another four years and also awarded a 3-year contract to manage Italy visa services to the residents of Libya after participating in an official tender published by the Embassy of Italy in Libya. [5]

The company also extended the contracts with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania and The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Croatia on 15 February 2018. As part of the extension, VFS Global will service Croatia visas across 27 countries, and Lithuania visas in 9 countries.[6]

FIFA FAN ID[edit]

As part of the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches, VFS Global enabled citizens from across the world who plan to attend matches to collect their FAN IDs at 165 Visa Application Centers located worldwide. In some countries like China, Great Britain, Turkey, Switzerland, Poland, India, Latvia, etc., there are several VFS Global Visa Application Centers which are open from where fans can select the most convenient one for delivery of their FAN IDs.

The FIFA FAN ID is a personalized spectator's card which is a part of the football fan identification system created in Russia and is issued free of charge for all the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches. FAN ID was used for the first time in the history of the FIFA tournaments during the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. Everyone who has purchased a match ticket must get a FAN ID. In order to do this, one must fill in an application form at http://www.fan-id.ru or register at one of the FAN ID Distribution Centers located in the Russian Federation. In combination with a match ticket, a FAN ID provides fast and convenient access to the stadium for all spectators. Foreign spectators and stateless persons can enter Russia visa-free with a FAN ID. It also entitles spectators to free travel on special trains connecting the host cities and on public transportation of the host cities on match days. [7]

New Visa Application Centres[edit]

In February 2018, VFS Global announced the opening of new the Latvia visa application centres in the UAE at Abu Dhabi and Dubai to process Schengen entry permits. This was part of the outsource mandate from the Government of Latvia for various countries which included UK, China, India, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Lebanon and South Korea. [8]

In late 2017, VFS Global also commenced the expansion of visa services network of Cyprus in India with new centres launched in four additional cities of Thiruvananthapuram, Goa, Gurugram, and Jaipur. These new centres commenced operations on 10 November 2017.The expansion of the network of Cyprus visa centres was to a total of 16 cities in India where applicants were offered additional services, such as SMS updates, courier services, online tracking services etc. [9]

Citizen Services[edit]

As part of a recent contract with DIFC Wills & Probate Registry, investors and residents in the UAE cities of Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah who have registered a will online were eligible to receive complimentary verification services from VFS Global as part of its Citizen Services initiatives. This came after a recent introduction of ‘The Law for Administration of Non-Muslim Estates in Dubai and Execution of their Wills’ where asset-owners can use security features including e-authentication, verifying the identity of the testator and e-witnessing that ensures that the will was drafted and witnessed with no third party influence as part of the services provided. [10]

Important Partnerships and Initiatives[edit]

In July 2017, VFS Global's education services arm-VFS Edu Support Services Pvt. Ltd., stated that they had entered into a partnership with UK-based Edtech Oxademy Technologies and its subsidiary Oxademy Business School in Mumbai. As part of the partnership, a new global digital learning platform ‘VFS-Oxademy’ was formed where a first-of- its-kind knowledge-driven artificial intelligence (AI) cloud infrastructure called OX360 was being launched. The company mentioned that this AI will identify each learner's strengths and weaknesses and generate learning paths based on individual learner’s behaviour,which is designed to be a response to the limitations of purely online courses that have suffered from high drop-out rates as the personalised learning factor was missing.VFS-Oxademy in its partnership mentioned that they will provide internationally-accredited post-graduate and executive education programmes in full online and ‘blended’ modes for both students and professionals globally.[11]

VFS Global has also entered into partnerships with select commercial airline companies located in the GCC region to process e-visas through their online portal. Late 2016, the company's unit- Dubai Visa Processing Centre (DVPC) had launched a mobile application for all customers of Emirates Airline flying to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to apply for a visa using their mobile and handheld devices. [12] Earlier in 2016, Qatar Airways and Qatar Tourism Authority had also signed an agreement with VFS Global to support the tourist visa application system initiative for inbound travelers planning to visit Qatar. [13]

In April 2017, the Kingdom of Bahrain’s national carrier- Gulf Air signed a partnership as well with the company for dedicated online platform where travelers to Bahrain can obtain a short term visit evisa. The online visa facility will launch this summer on www.gulfair.com. y via our website www.gulfair.com [14]

VFS Global has an experience of over 8 years of partnering with Tourism Boards and global presence in 24 countries serving 5 major Tourism Boards. Early 2017, Czech Tourism appointed VFS Global as its India representative for a year to support Indian travel agents and tour operator cooperation by organizing familiarization and press trips which also included conducting roadshows and other marketing activities to boost the numbers to Czech Republic as a location.[15] Additionally, roadshow campaigns titled ‘Czech Republic – Land of Stories’ were also conducted in Middle East countries like Kuwait and the UAE by VFS Global on behalf of Czech Tourism in early 2018 as well as part of the partnership. [16]

ENIT - Italian State Tourist Board reopened its Mumbai office in 2013 in association with VFS Global to assist the Tourism Board to set up their India operations to promote Italy as a tourism destination. [17] In February 2015, VFS Global was appointed to respresent Macau Tourism Office in India to promote customised travel packages to Macau for Indian tourists with Leisure, MICE, and wedding segments as the key focus areas. As part of the partnership MGTO opened an office in Mumbai to target locations like New Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Ahmedabad. [18]

The VFS Global-Atout France initiative was rolled out as a pilot project for disseminating information about France’s wide-ranging tourism opportunities with the launch of the first tourism kiosk at the VFS Global Centre in Bengaluru on 17 May 2017. The initiative will support travellers to book tickets and passes in advance for concerts, museums and touristic monuments in France while applying for a visa with staff trained by Atout France will man the kiosks to guide them.[19]

Acquisition of TT Services[edit]

In August 2017, VFS Global completed the acquisition of UK-based visa service provider TT Services (TTS) for an undisclosed amount. At the time of the acquisition, TTS operated 51 visa application centres in over 35 countries with 216 employees to support its visa services for client governments, partners and applicants. [20] The transaction enabled VFS Global to leverage on core competences and brands as well as further enhance its operating performance.

Important Certifications[edit]

VFS Global has been certified ISO 9001:2008 for Quality Management System, ISO 27001:2013 for Information Security Management System, ISO 14001:2004 for Environmental Management System, ISO/IEC/IEEE 23026:2015 for Engineering and management of websites for systems, software and services information, and Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (OHSAS) 18001:2007 for its global operations. The company is also appraised at People Capability Maturity Model (PCMM) Level 3, by the CMMI Institute, Carnegie Mellon University. [21]

Awards and Recognition[edit]

VFS Global was awarded the 'Best Visa Facilitation Company' at the prestigious Arabian Travel Awards 2017 held at the JW Marriott Hotel at Deira in Dubai. The Arabian Travel Awards recognises success stories within the travel and hospitality industry in the GCC region.[22] In April 2017, VFS Global was awarded the IMC Digital Technology Award, under the Digitally Enabled Organization in Large Enterprise Category. The award was presented by Padma Bhushan Shri F.C. Kohli on behalf of IMC (Chambers of commerce & industry) at the award ceremony held in Mumbai. [23] VFS Global was also the recipient of the ‘Most Outstanding Organization of the year – 2016’ at the Travel and Hospitality Awards hosted by India’s leading travel monthly Travel and Hospitality at the award function, held in Delhi on 14 April 2017 which recognised patrons of the Indian travel and tourism industry. [24]

As a recognition to his contributions in developing France as a tourist destination and contribution to visa services globally, Zubin Karkaria, CEO – VFS Global was appointed ‘Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite’ (Knight of the National Order of Merit) by the President of the French Republic, François Hollande, in December 2016.The French award was conferred on Zubin Karkaria by H.E. Alexandre Ziegler, Ambassador of France to India, on behalf of President Hollande, at a ceremony in Mumbai. [25] Zubin Karkaria was also conferred with the ‘Award of Distinction’ by the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), for his long-standing contribution to the Indian travel and tourism industry at the 63rd TAAI Convention held in Abu Dhabi on 14 October 2016.[26] He was also named as the CEO of the Year at 10th edition of the Masala! Awards 2017 which was held on 13 December 2017 at the Bollywood Parks, Dubai Parks and Resort.[27]

Data security[edit]

A security flaw in the VFS Global managed online application website for the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office resulted in up to 50 000 visa applications from India, Nigeria and Russia being publicly accessible.[citation needed] The security flaw was known since December 2005, but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website was only shut down after an investigation in May 2007 following reports in the media.[28][29] The security breach was first reported by an Indian applicant[citation needed] in December 2005 after which no effective remedial action was taken by either VFS nor UK visas, 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.

The report[30][31][32] 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 that following this incident, UKvisas conducted extensive testing and found no evidence that data had been stolen or misused.[citation needed] 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.

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[33] 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[34] 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.[35]

Since this incident several governments have been critical of VFS Global's abilities and have raised concerns over security.[36] "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, told The Sunday Telegraph: "Once you put this work in the hands of private companies overseas, you no longer have the same protection."

VFS Global's security flaws were called into question again in July 2015 when their online visa forms for Italy allowed users to see the personal information of other applicants, including their date of birth, passport details and addresses, if they mistakenly input the ID number of another person when logging into the system.[37]

Stance on Data Security and Measures undertaken by VFS Global[edit]

Amidst these challenges and allegations, VFS Global has maintained the stance that ensuring security and confidentiality of clients data has always remained the utmost priority to the organisation across its global operations. Taking into consideration the business sensitivities and the partnerships with the different client governments, VFS Global reiterated that they have ensured round the security monitoring and the service function checks in place to ensure security against internal threats and zero loss of data, being susceptible to attacks from hackers.

Along with a lot of preventive ground work that is performed with security vendors and such advisory companies to validate the operations, VFS Global stated that they followed the ‘Four-Eye’ principle where there is a maker and checker always in place to counter such issues along with security awareness programmes carried out internally amongst employees. The company also works with most of the big fours (Deloitte, KPMG, E&Y and PwC) and not limit with knowledge of one partner as one of the security evaluation steps. VFS Global also has implemented other steps like renewing the ISO 27001 audit and certification each year.[38]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "VFS Global". www.vfsglobal.com. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  2. ^ "Dubai: Latvia Opens New External Visa Centres in UAE in Partnership with VFS Global". Dubai: .bellevision.com. 2018-02-05. Retrieved 2018-02-14.
  3. ^ "VFS Global to process Germany visas in ten 10 new countries". Dubai: .traveldailynews. 2018-01-03. Retrieved 2018-02-14.
  4. ^ "VFS Global now serves Germany across 19 nations globally". Dubai: .prnewswire. 2018-01-03. Retrieved 2018-02-14.
  5. ^ "VFS Global Further Strengthens Partnership With the Government of Italy". Dubai: IANS. 2018-02-18. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  6. ^ "Croatia and Lithuania Extend Their Contracts With VFS Global". Dubai: .prnewswire. 2018-02-15. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  7. ^ "FAN IDs Are Now Delivered to the VFS Global Visa Application Centers". Dubai: newswire. 2017-12-27. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  8. ^ "VFS Global to process Schengen visa to Latvia". Dubai: Gulf News. 2018-02-05. Retrieved 2018-02-14.
  9. ^ "Cyprus Visa Application Centres now in 16 cities across India". India: Travel News Digest. 2017-11-23. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  10. ^ "Residents with registered wills to receive free verification services". Dubai: Gulf News. 2017-11-08. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  11. ^ "VFS Edu Support Services partners with Oxademy to launch World's first 'AI-based' online learning programs for students". Mumbai: Business World Education. 2017-07-26. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  12. ^ "VFS Global introduces mobile app for UAE visas". India: Travel Trends Today. 2016-11-16. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  13. ^ "Qatar Airways and QTA Sign Agreement with VFS Global". Doha: Marhaba. 2016-09-01. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  14. ^ "Gulf Air, VFS Global ink partnership agreement". Doha: Bahrain News Gazette. 2017-04-26. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  15. ^ "Czech Tourism appoints VFS Global as India rep". Mumbai: Tourism Breaking News. 2017-02-23. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  16. ^ "Czech Tourism appoints VFS Global as India rep". Dubai: Trav Talk Middle East. 2018-02-01. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  17. ^ "Czech Tourism appoints VFS Global as India rep". Mumbai: Travel Biz Monitor. 2013-05-27. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  18. ^ "VFS Global appointed Macau Tourism Office in India". Mumbai: Travel Biz Monitor. 2015-02-12. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  19. ^ "Now, apply for a French visa in Bengaluru". Bangalore: Times of India. 2017-05-16. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  20. ^ "VFS Global completes acquisition of visa service provider TT Services". Delhi: Times of India. 2017-08-23. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  21. ^ "VFS Global now services Croatia and Lithuania visas in 27 and 9 countries respectively". Dubai: Yahoo Finance. 2018-02-15. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  22. ^ "Arabian Travel Awards". Dubai: Travel TV Middle East. 2017-07-07. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  23. ^ "WINNERS - IMC Digital Technology Awards". India: IMC. 2017-04-04. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  24. ^ "WINNERS - IMC Digital Technology Awards". India: IMC. 2017-04-04. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  25. ^ "President of France bestows National Order of Merit on Zubin Karkaria". Mumbai: Tourism Breaking News. 2016-12-06. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  26. ^ "Zubin Karkaria honoured with TAAI's 'Award of Distinction'". Abu Dhabi: Tourism Breaking News. 2016-11-03. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  27. ^ "VFS Global CEO wins top award". Dubai: Tourism Breaking News. 2017-12-17. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  28. ^ Bollard, Mark (18 May 2007). "Indian problem could be worldwide". The Register. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  29. ^ "Exposed: Indian visa application data accessible to anyone with a web browser". Daniweb.com. 2012-06-20. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
  30. ^ "Report of The Independent Investigation" (PDF). Fco.gov.uk. 2009-11-05. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
  31. ^ "Investigator ridicules UK visa site". The Register. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
  32. ^ "U.K. government slammed over bug in outsourced Web site". Computerworld. 2007-08-10. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
  33. ^ "Foreign Office in breach of the Data Protection Act" (PDF). Information Commissioner’s Office. 13 November 2007. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
  34. ^ Bobbie Johnson (2007-11-14). "UK government failed to protect privacy of online visa applications; guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
  35. ^ "Travel & Hospitality: VFS Global - Express Computer". Expresscomputeronline.com. 2008-10-13. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
  36. ^ "Private firm's work with visas raises concerns". Toronto: .thestar.com. 2008-10-13. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
  37. ^ Saeed Kamali Dehghan (17 July 2015). "Users' data compromised after technical glitch at Home Office contractor". The Guardian.
  38. ^ "'Security is of paramount importance to us'". Mumbai: Express Travel World. 2016-06-11. Retrieved 2018-02-15.