By Vera Samuel Anyagafu AND PRISCA SAM-DURU
Years before VFS Global was instituted to partner/collaborate with some foreign embassies in Nigeria in respect to visa application processing for Nigeria visa seekers, applicants were subjected to all sorts of inhuman conditions in order to procure visa to visit countries of choice.
Surprisingly, however, some Nigerians have expressed dissatisfaction with the services of VFS Global which tended towards allegations that the company is yet to bring succour to Nigeria visa applicants.s.
A visit by Vanguard Consular Advisory to VFS Global office in Lekki, revealed that these applicants may have reacted under misconception. Chief Operating Officer, Africa and Middle East, VFS Global, Mr Paul Vijayakumar, spoke to Vanguard Consular Advisory team. Excerpts:
IS VFS a Nigerian incorporation? Are you in partnership or just an enterprise?
VFS Global, based in London, UK, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Kuoni Group, a public-listed company headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland. Business practices followed by the company are in line with the highest business ethics standards and in line with Kuoni Group’s Code of Conduct. For its operations in Nigeria, VFS Global is incorporated as VF Global Services Nigeria limited, as an independent organisation operating without any partnership with any local organisation or body.
What are the aims and objectives of VFS?
VFS Global is the world’s largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions and governments worldwide. The company manages visa and passport issuance-related administrative and non-judgemental tasks for its client governments. With 802 Visa Application Centres (VACs) and operations in 88 countries across five continents, VFS Global serves the interests of the diplomatic missions of 42 sovereign governments. The company has successfully processed over 55.66 million applications since its inception in 2001.
The company’s highly differentiated solutions portfolio includes dedicated visa and passport application centres, information services (call centres), web based modules (for appointment scheduling and online payment collection), biometrics (data capture and transfer), verification/legalisation/attestation, translation, overseas citizenship, logistics solutions, programme and project management, database management, security solutions, financial solutions, etc. This broad scope enables missions to focus entirely on the primary task of assessment and interviews.
To meet the demands of the clients, VFS Global has embedded best practices in its operations across all its dedicated visa application centres globally. From the distribution of visa application forms to returning processed applications, and related services, VFS Global follows a series of highly advanced, precise and streamlined processes to ensure its clients’ and applicants’ absolute security and confidentiality. VFS Global’s offices and operations across the world are certified with ISO 9001:2008 for Quality Management System and ISO 27001:2005 for Information Security Management System by TUV SUD, one of the world’s leading external and independent certification bodies.
We know you represent more than four embassies. Can we know the embassies you process visa applications for?
In Nigeria, VFS Global is the trusted partner to the diplomatic missions of 10 governments, i.e. Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America (as a sub-contractor to Stanley Associates Inc. – the prime contractor for US Government operations).
Do you operate with the mind-set that most documents presented by visa applicants are fraudulent until the contrary is proven?
For acceptance of visa applications and attached documents, VFS Global strictly follows the procedures mandated by the respective diplomatic mission/ government. Our staff is meticulously trained in application acceptance methods based on these guidelines. However, VFS Global is not responsible for verifying the authenticity of the documents submitted, as the same is done by the concerned diplomatic mission/ government during their assessment and decision making process – and hence we do not even consider/evaluate the authenticity of documents submitted by visa applicants.
What challenges do you face in dealing with Nigeria visa applicants?
The visa application process, generally, is very simple and straightforward one. Applicants are encouraged to visit the designated website or visa application centre or enquire at the call centres managed by VFS Global for a thorough understanding of the requirements and procedures.
Convenience of applications
For the benefit and convenience of applications, notices and guidelines are always displayed at VFS Global’s VACs. Applicants are requested to refer to the information published by VFS Global, which are regularly updated for relevance, in order to stay updated on the most accurate information, and safeguard their interests and not be misguided.
Do you also experience issue of touts?
At the VFS Global managed facilities, we ensure that only genuine applicants are allowed inside the VAC premises. We have also installed CCTV cameras and deployed security guards for constant vigilance at all public frequented areas at our premises, for round-the-clock monitoring of all activities inside the premises, and to ensure that the rocess integrity is upheld at all times. At VFS Global, security of visa applicants, the premises and integrity of process has always been our endeavour in the best interest of the visa applicants as well as the diplomatic missions we partner with. VFS Global’s VACs are one-stop-shop facilities which allow the applicants to complete the visa application process/ formalities and leave the premises at one go.
To safeguard the interests of the applicants, we display sufficient notices and guidelines within, as well as in the periphery of our premises. Information and guidelines are also displayed and communicated through our websites, call centres and information desks, which are free-of-cost services, for the applicants to avail information and resolve their queries and concerns.
What are your hours of operation?
Response: We operate from 08:00 hrs to 15:00 hrs from Monday – Friday, except holidays observed by the Federal Government of Nigeria and the diplomatic missions we work with.
Do you observe holidays of countries you process their visa for in addition to Nigeria holiday?
Yes, we are required to follow the holidays listed by the diplomatic missions of the governments we partner with, as this is a mandated requirement by them.
How many applications do you process weekly?
Response: We accept approximately 10,000 visa applications a week in Nigeria, which are further sent to the respective diplomatic missions for necessary processing and decision making.
Do you have any idea of the success rate?
VFS Global is not in a position to track the success rate, as we do not even know if the visa is granted or not for any visa application. As a standard process, VFS Global is not involved in any decision making process. The outcome of any application is at the sole discretion of the respective diplomatic mission. The missions return the applications with decisions to VFS Global in sealed envelopes, which are subsequently returned to the applicants in the same manner.
Are there issues not raised that you may want to discuss?
We would like to use this opportunity to clarify and explain the Premium Lounge services offered to the visa applicants at our VACs.
The Premium Lounge facility is an optional service offered to the applicants, with due approvals from the diplomatic missions we partner with. This facility is highly appreciated by many Nigerian applicants since it rovides a dedicated application and waiting area, personalised services, and a faster turnaround time of the
visa application process within the VAC premise.
Applicants enjoy the right to choose or refuse these services at their discretion, and are not bound to opt for these services under any circumstances. However, availing of this service does not influence in the decision on the outcome, or the turnaround time of the visa application at the diplomatic mission.
. Is there any information you want to pass to the general public to make your operation easy?
We urge prospective visa applicants to kindly visit VFS Global’s website www.vfsglobal.com, contact any VFS Global operated call centre or VACs, for all information and assistance regarding their visa application process, and documentation requirements in advance. This would help them understand the requirements put forth by the diplomatic missions, and ease the entire submission process at the VACs.
Security has always been of paramount importance at VFS Global, and we are extremely focussed on maintaining a safe and secure environment at our premises at all times.
We invite applicants to feel free to share their suggestions and feedback on our services to [email protected] as this would greatly help us to continuously enhance applicants’ experience ensure the Nigerian citizens are meted out with the best customer services at all times.