Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group COO – South Asia, Middle East & North Africa and Americas, VFS Global, says that in essence, the future of visa processing now rests with how the enablers are able to best integrate the dire need for safety to a new, disrupted journey.
Globalisation brought with it game-changing developments that set precedence for economic growth across geographies. One such development was the boost to cross-border travel for both recreational and business purposes that greatly influenced the economic growth of countries. The increase in demand for international travel led to the need for a streamlined visa application process that would ease the customer journey while applying for a visa and help the relevant embassies/consulates with the growing application load.
VFS Global, the world’s largest visa outsourcing and technology services specialist, launched its services in 2001 to provide this very process. Over the years, VFS Global has expanded and launched new services at the back of innovative technology, building a digitised ecosystem for travel that boasts of the highest levels of safety and security.
The 20-year journey
The journey began with VFS Global in 2001 signing its first client government, the US Consulate in Mumbai, as an outsourcing partner supporting their administrative tasks around visa applications. Today, the organisation works with 63 governments globally, with operations spanning 144 countries managed via 3400+ Visa Application Centres; a success trajectory that can be attributed to VFS Global’s tech and data prowess and operational excellence.
VFS Global has consistently invested in solutions that have been ahead of their time, and addressed every challenge meticulously, ensuring that every customer’s first step into the journey is frictionless. As first-movers and creators of the space, VFS Global changed the face of visa services by revolutionising operations at the back of personalisation and customisation for both clients as well as customers.
Visa Application Centres were designed along the theme of customer-first, providing the necessary assistance and encouraging real-time resolution to feedback. Optional services were designed to help customers at every step, from filling their forms to end-to-end personalised assistance in exclusive premium lounges. These services saw demand grow over the years. While the pandemic pushed many sub-sectors within travel to instinctively invest in technology, not as an afterthought, for VFS Global it was at the heart of their business since inception. The company’s depth of operations across geographies and the burgeoning number of travellers from across the globe enabled VFS Global to introduce innovations that were never thought possible in a consular, government-to-consumer setup. VFS Global cut through the supply chain lag and streamlined the Visa Procurement process by providing travellers personalised services such as Visa At Your Doorstep (VAYD), Joint Visa Application Centres, self-upload of documents, personal assistance, eVisa solutions, IVR for helpline and chatbot help desks, all aimed at improving efficiency, turnaround time and reducing scope for error. As the company charts the road to bringing back the promise in travel, the strategy is to reimagine the customer journey and offer convenience at every step of the journey with safety at the core of it.
The future of visa application services
As borders reopen and travel restrictions ease gradually, a convenient and reliable pre-departure COVID-19 testing solution may become a catalyst in the recovery process of international travel. Testing all passengers for COVID-19 prior to departure at the country of origin would be a critical success factor. To meet this rising demand, VFS Global launched a COVID-19 test appointment booking service in over 40 countries, in partnership with government accredited medical service providers, authorised to carry out tests as per local rules and regulations.
More recently, VFS Global has entered a strategic partnership with Affinidi’s Unifier and Accredify to address another aspect of safe border reopening. The partnership enables travellers to seamlessly book their mandatory pre-departure COVID-19 swab test and keep a copy of the swab’s results online via VFS Global’s network of accredited laboratories. With Accredify’s tamper-proof HealthCert solution, the traveller’s test results can be used for verification purposes by relevant authorities. Unifier then enables airlines and immigration authorities to digitally verify the authenticity of the test results using a simple QR code scan and matching the health credentials against the entry requirements of the destination country.