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Consular news – Embassy 8 – May 2008

An end to visa queues

Long queues outside Indian and Chinese consulates in the UK will be a thing of the past as both missions move to outsource their visa services in response to growing demand.

Speaking at the launch of India's first visa application centre (VAC) in London, Indian High Commissioner Shiv Shankar Mukherjee said outsourcing represented a "huge advance" in India's UK consular services, which processes over half a million visas annually.

The outsourcing contract was awarded to VFS Global, which processes visas for the Belgian consulate in London and runs visa operations in France, Australia, China, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

Speaking at the launch, Zubin Karkaria, CEO of Kuoni Travel Group, the parent company of VFS, said applicants could now enjoy "a convenient and smooth application process" with longer opening hours, online application, payment and appointment options, as well as postal applications and delivery for passports and online tracking of passports. During the transition a complimentary coach service between the High Commission and the new centre will be laid on for applicants.

Spiralling visa demand in London has also prompted the Chinese consulate to open its first VAC in June in anticipation of a rush for visas in the run-up to the Olympics in August.

Visa demand has been growing steadily, totalling 180,000 visas annually.

Operations will be managed by China Visa Services Ltd, a Chinese company registered in UK. For a fee of between £30-£40, the CVAC will be responsible for accepting visa applications, collecting visa fees and returning processed applications. During the transition the Chinese consulate will continue to accept visa applications, but only via an online appointment system.

The Russian consulate, meanwhile, had plans in place for a temporary outsourcing operation to cope with excess visa demand prior to the Champion's League final in Moscow. The idea was shelved when the foreign ministry waived visas for short-stay fans.

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