|Founded||Mumbai, Maharashtra, India (July 2001 )|
Number of employees
|3,769 (30 June 2015)|
VFS Global is the world's outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide. The company manages visa and passport issuance-related administrative and non-judgmental tasks for its client governments. With over 1793 Application Centres and operations in 122 countries across five continents, VFS Global serves the interests of 45 client governments. The company has processed over 108 million applications since its inception in 2001.
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.
- VFS Global opens first Visa Application Centre in Pskov
- VFS Global wins Denmark and the Netherlands global contracts
- Colombia: UK visa application centre.
- Dubai: UK visa application centre.
- India: UK, Germany visa applications centre.
- Iraq: Austria and Slovenia application centre.
- Jordan: Norway Visa application centre.
- Myanmar: UK visa application centre.
- Oman:Netherlands (Schengen) Visa Application Centre
- Saudi Arabia: Netherlands (Schengen) Visa Application Centre
- Singapore: UK, Australia and New Zealand visa application centre.
Awards & Recognitions
- VFS Global wins ‘Service Provider of the Year’ award
- VFS Global wins Dubai Quality Appreciation Award
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. 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. The security breach was first reported by an Indian applicant 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 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. 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, 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.
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 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 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.
However, since this incident several governments have been critical of VFS Global's abilities and have raised concerns over security. "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 following reports of a similar security breach.
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.
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. 
Organisation, Monopoly and Dominance
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.
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.
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- "Norway and VFS Global extend visa service delivery to Amman in Jordan". zawya.com. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
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- "First of its kind Visa Application Centre for Five Countries Conference (5CC) launched in Singapore".
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- "UK Visa Information".
- "Foreign Office in breach of the Data Protection Act" (PDF). Information Commissioner’s Office. 13 November 2007. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
- Bobbie Johnson (2007-11-14). "UK government failed to protect privacy of online visa applications; guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
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- Make sure your UK Visa Application is not refused because of VFS (Thailand) Ltd. Thaiscare.com (2011-10-02). Retrieved on 2015-03-30.