With the opening of a Joint Visa Application Centre in London, the issue of outsourcing visa services has become a hot topic among consuls, with protagonists claiming it is an affordable solution to excess visa demand and detractors worried about security risks and the impact on their work.
As biometric visas become the norm, questions about the lack of capacity of consulates to cope with biometric data capture have also fuelled debate.
London’s JVAC is run by VFS Global, a visa outsourcing company working with 23 foreign ministries in 40 countries. Speaking at a recent Consular Corps luncheon, Jiten Vyas of VFS Global, explained that outsourcing relieves the administrative burden of the application process, allowing consuls more time to concentrate on the decision-making.
Application centres reduced queues outside the mission, he added, and allowed applicants to visit centres at a convenient time of their choosing.
With visa fraud and data loss on the rise, Vyas said the security protocols used by VFS met the highest industry standards. Staff are vetted, documents are transported in sealed envelopes and data is encrypted. Secure IT systems have also been developed to be interoperable with the home country’s data verification systems and stored on UK-based servers.