VFS Global

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

VFS Global is the world's largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide.[citation needed] The company manages visa and passport issuance-related administrative and non-judgmental tasks for its client governments. With over 1660 Application Centres[citation needed] and operations in 121 countries[citation needed] across five continents, VFS Global serves the interests of 45 client governments. The company has processed over 100 million applications since its inception in 2001.[citation needed]

VFS Global’s offices and operations across the world are certified with ISO 9001:2008 for Quality Management System, ISO 27001:20013 for Information Security Management System and ISO 14001:2004 for Environmental Management System.

VFS Global is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Kuoni Group, a public-listed company headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland.

History[edit]

The company stated with a opens new Visa Application Centres in Mumbai[1] VFS Global is a fully owned subsidiary of Kuoni Travel, a public-listed company with headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

  • VFS Global opens first Visa Application Centre in Pskov[2]
  • VFS Global wins Denmark and the Netherlands global contracts[3]

Contracts[edit]

  • Colombia: UK visa application centre.[4]
  • Dubai: UK visa application centre.[5]
  • India: UK, Germany visa applications centre. [6]
  • Iraq: Austria and Slovenia application centre.[7][8][9]
  • Jordan: Norway Visa application centre.[10]
  • Myanmar: UK visa application centre.[11]
  • Oman:Netherlands (Schengen) Visa Application Centre[12]
  • Saudi Arabia: Netherlands (Schengen) Visa Application Centre[13][14][15]
  • Singapore: UK, Australia and New Zealand visa application centre.[16]

Awards & Recognitions[edit]

  • VFS Global awarded the ‘Capgemini Leadership Award for Innovation 2012 [17][18]
  • VFS Global wins ‘Service Provider of the Year’ award[19]
  • VFS Global wins Dubai Quality Appreciation Award[20]

Controversy[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.[21][22] 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.[23][22] The security breach was first reported by an Indian applicant[24] 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.

The report[25][26][27] 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.

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,[28] 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.[29]

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[30] 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[31] 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.[32]

However, since this incident several governments have been critical of VFS Global's abilities and have raised concerns over security.[33] "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."

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[34] following reports of a similar security breach.[35]

In June 2014, it was reported that VFS Global is being investigated by the South African Competition Commission regarding allegations of market dominance by VFS Global in the visa support services market to foreign embassies. The Commission's spokesperson Themba Mathebula stated that the commission’s screening unit had completed its preliminary investigation and submitted its report, recommending further formal investigations into VFS.[36]

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.[37]

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.[38]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "UK opens new Visa centres in Mumbai". 
  2. ^ http://www.pihkva.estemb.ru/eng/news/aid-2732.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ http://www.travelbizmonitor.com/vfs-global-wins-denmark-and-the-netherlands-global-contracts-21243.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ https://www.gov.uk/government/world-location-news/new-commercial-partner-vfs-global-for-uk-visa-applications-in-colombia/.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ "VFS Global Dubai starts Ramadan work hours". tradearabia.com. tradearabia.com. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  6. ^ http://www.travelbizmonitor.com/uk-renews-partnership-with-vfs-global-opens-2-visa-application-centres-in-mumbai-23488/.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ "Govt. of Austria and VFS Global launch Austria Visa Application Centre in Iraq". 
  8. ^ http://210.210.25.188/vfs-web-development/englishnew/about_us/milestones.asp.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ Press release. "Germany and VFS Global inaugurate Visa Application Centre in Mumbai" (PDF). india.diplo.de. Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Mumbai. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  10. ^ "Norway and VFS Global extend visa service delivery to Amman in Jordan". zawya.com. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  11. ^ Ngamsangchaikit, Wanwisa. "British embassy outsources to VFS". ttrweekly.com. ttrweekly.com. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  12. ^ "Netherlands opens visa application centre in Muscat". tradearabia.com. Trade Arabia. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  13. ^ 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. ^ http://www.traveldailymedia.com/135861/vfs-global-wins-saudi-arabia-government-visa-service/.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ Fernz, Charmaine. "Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Saudi Arabia, along with VFS Global launched their visa application service.". traveldailymedia.com. Travel Daily Media. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  16. ^ "First of its kind Visa Application Centre for Five Countries Conference (5CC) launched in Singapore". 
  17. ^ "VFS Global awarded The Capgemini Leadership Award for innovation". www.in.capgemini.com. 
  18. ^ "VFS Global awarded The Capgemini Leadership Award for innovation". India Infoline. 
  19. ^ . Travel Biz Monitor http://www.travelbizmonitor.com/vfs-global-wins-service-provider-of-the-year-award-23616.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^ . Travel Biz Monitor http://www.travelbizmonitor.com/vfs-global-wins-dubai-quality-appreciation-award-20369.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ Melissen, edited by Jan; Fernandez, Ana Mar (2011). Consular affairs and diplomacy. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 136. ISBN 978-90-04-18876-1. 
  22. ^ a b Bollard, Mark (18 May 2007). "Indian problem could be worldwide". The Register. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  23. ^ "Exposed: Indian visa application data accessible to anyone with a web browser". Daniweb.com. 2012-06-20. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  24. ^ "Open Circuit: Identity Leakage: Trust VFS to reveal all". Sanjibmitra.blogspot.com. 2007-05-10. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  25. ^ "Report of The Independent Investigation" (PDF). Fco.gov.uk. 2009-11-05. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  26. ^ "Investigator ridicules UK visa site". The Register. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  27. ^ "U.K. government slammed over bug in outsourced Web site". Computerworld. 2007-08-10. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  28. ^ "UK's new visa rules causing anguish for families". BBC. 10 June 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  29. ^ "UK Visa Information". 
  30. ^ "Foreign Office in breach of the Data Protection Act" (PDF). Information Commissioner’s Office. 13 November 2007. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  31. ^ Bobbie Johnson (2007-11-14). "UK government failed to protect privacy of online visa applications; guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  32. ^ "Travel & Hospitality: VFS Global - Express Computer". Expresscomputeronline.com. 2008-10-13. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  33. ^ "Private firm's work with visas raises concerns". Toronto: .thestar.com. 2008-10-13. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  34. ^ "Doctors' job website is suspended". BBC NEWS. 26 April 2007. Retrieved 31 March 2008. 
  35. ^ Davey Winder. "I fought the law..". PC Pro. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  36. ^ Donnelly, Lynley (27 June 2014). "Visa services under investigation". Mail & Guardian. 
  37. ^ Hunter, Murray. (2013-08-01) Australian Immigration – the Snowden Link?. Dissident Voice. Retrieved on 2015-03-30.
  38. ^ Make sure your UK Visa Application is not refused because of VFS (Thailand) Ltd. Thaiscare.com (2011-10-02). Retrieved on 2015-03-30.

Country specific websites[edit]