By Surbhi Gogia
The vital part of traveling to a different country is having the right travel document in the form of a passport or visa. The thought of waiting in long lines, traveling to a far location for an appointment, or arranging tedious documentation, hits a stress button in a lot of travelers. With summer travel picking up after the pandemic, the application process might appear a monstrous task.
But Amit Kumar Sharma, head of VFS Global America operation, believes it is easier than it appears. He says planning ahead and adhering to the document checklist can make the visa or passport application process simple and smooth.
According to Sharma VFS Global is a leader and your companion in this process. “We work towards ensuring comfort and speedy services for visa applicants worldwide. We are constantly updating and expanding services to make visa process enjoyable and less stressful for the applicants.”
Sharma heads VFS Global operations Americas including the USA, Canada, South America, Mexico and the Caribbean. He was recently in Surrey to discuss the company’s expansion plans including the possibility of setting up a VFS centre in Surrey.
Informing about the company’s profile, he said that VFS Global works as the bridge between a country’s embassy and those applying for visas. “VFS Global is one of the largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions. When you apply for a visa or passport for many countries, you do not go directly go to the Embassy or Consulate General. You come to one of our centers. We manage the non-judgmental and administrative tasks related to applications for visa, passport, and consular services. We disseminate information, check documents, arrange biometrics etc. Critical assessment task and decision-making is the sole work of the embassy once the completed application is dispatched from our end.”
A company that originated in India with the US as its first client currently has more than 3,300 application centres in more than 145 countries and serves more than 68 client governments.
Sharma said that VFS Global is widely present in Canada with centres in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, and Ottawa. In Canada, VFS Global helps to process visa applications for the UK, Europe, Nigeria, New Zealand as well as the online eVisa for several countries including Vietnam, amongst others.
But anticipating an increase in travel after the complete lifting of COVID restrictions, the company is planning to expand its foothold. “There is a pent-up demand for travel, resulting in a surge in bookings for flights, hotels, and other services. As more universities resume in-person classes, we are already seeing an increase in student travel. Similarly, many businesses are resuming travel to attend meetings and events, while family reunions are also expected to boost travel demand. VFS Global is gearing up to handle these counts and is fully prepared to provide the best of services to our applicants.”
The expansion will be at multiple levels. One is updating the infrastructure and space at the existing locations; some are already in process. Another plan is to set up new VFS centres in Winnipeg, Regina, and Surrey.
Currently VFS Global Centre in Vancouver manages visa and passport work for the UK, Europe and the entire Schengen area. The company is exploring serving more client governments through its centre in Lower Mainland and an intended centre in Surrey.
Sharma said that the company’s focus is complete client satisfaction. “Visa process is the first step of your journey and we want to make it smooth and hassle free.”
For that reason, VFS Global has introduced various digital and personalised services.
“During the pandemic, there was an urgent need to adapt and evolve to facilitate emergency travel. At VFS Global, we leveraged our technology expertise and provided customers with online and simplified services. We facilitated processes like passports, OCI cards or even applying for visas completely from home.”
Once the COVID restrictions were lifted, the company introduced services such as Digital Document Check, enabling customers to verify their application documents before visiting an application centre, significantly reducing the physical time spent at a visa application centre. “Our enhancements to the form-filling process also help applicants to upload and digitally complete the process from home,” he said. “We even revisited and addressed basic issues previously faced like anomalies in photographs that were uploaded which led to form rejections. The ‘photo solution service’ we incorporated into the India mission digitally ensures the picture you upload is converted to the precise specifications mandated by the government and in turn, saves a lot of time and effort. Now this service could be extended to other client governments too.”
Sensing the evolving need for personalised services, Sharma informed that VFS Global is bringing more of the visa application process online and to the safety of customers’ homes. “We have recently introduced the innovative Digital Document Check and Digital Application Submission services. We also offer Visa at Your Doorstep (VAYD) service and have seen a sudden spike in demand for this service. We carry mobile kits to capture the biometrics of individuals in their homes or companies and corporate campuses. We also go to universities where students are a huge market, adding that it makes more sense for large groups to utilise this program instead of making multiple in-person appointments at VFS Global centres. In the US, we also facilitate Consular Camps with the support of local federations and associations to bring consular services closer to the Indian diaspora community.”
The company, Sharma says, is also present to educate and inform about the application process. He advises applicants to be cautious of visa frauds. “The decision to give a visa is the exclusive task of the government. No individual or organization can influence that decision. Also, some fraudulent entities or impersonators claim to be associated with VFS Global. Such entities may charge applicants for scheduling appointments or providing other services using VFS Global’s name, even though VFS Global does not charge for scheduling appointments except for legitimate published fees that are publicised on its respective sites. To stay safe, only the official VFS Global website or authorized third-party partners should be used to schedule appointments and pay fees.”
By Surbhi Gogia