VFS Global recently concluded an informative webinar for the travel trade, where not only they cleared the issues being faced by the industry and consumers, but also informed the trade about their new products.
Pranav Sinha, Head – South Asia, VFS Global, said that customers want to use more do-it-yourself kind of processes and digital solutions.
Visa at doorstep
Sinha shared that Visa At Your Doorstep (VAYD) is for the convenience of the customer, to apply from the comfort of their residence or offices. It is a great product for travel partners, who could consolidate groups and travellers and get us to come to them instead of arranging customers to come to the Visa Application Centre (VAC). Sharing details, Elizabeth Samuel, Deputy Regional Head-Bangladesh, Bhutan, India (North & East), Israel, Nepal & Palestine, VFS Global, said, “Popularly known as mobile biometrics, this service entails end to end personalised assistance; appointments can be made available on weekdays, weekend and on public holidays.”
Sinha highlighted that Digital Application Submission (DAS) allows customers to talk over a video call and ascertain whether all their documentation is correct or not. Similarly, Digital Document Check will allow customers to submit complete and accurate application form, along with supporting documentation for visas at the comfort of their own home.
There are many changes coming from embassies and consulates in India, as well as the central government offices. “These are in a very periodic manner updated on our websites. The travel trade should refer to our websites and check the respective government’s host destination website,” Sinha suggested.
Handling the surge
Also, Sinha highlighted that to handle the surge of applications, they are coming up with temporary enrolment locations—pop up VACs/ drop off services. “Our websites are also being modified continuously. We have engaged with Morocco in India and rolled out e-visa solutions for Azerbaijan,” he shared. Also, he suggested, “Please ask customers to apply in advance. There are constraints in terms of what VFS can accept owing to a few governments capping applications.”
On the delay in getting UK visa, Sinha said, “It is taking about six weeks for standard UK application to be processed. However, UK still has priority and super priority options.”
Keep My Passport
Samuel shared that the Keep My Passport service is particularly for UK travellers. “With this option you can retain your passport, while your visa application for UK is still being assessed,” she explained.
VFS is in the process of changing the appointment systems. For the peak season, Ramita Vyas, Head – Special Projects, Quality & Customer Services, Regional Head – Western India, VFS Global, informed, “We have relooked at our entire appointment management system, which has been enhanced for multiple client government. We have used technology to ensure that the experience is seamless as compared to earlier.” Another change in the appointment management system is the option of bulk appointments.
Delay from embassies
Addressing the issue of delayed embassy decisions on visa, Sinha said “Everyone is trying to edge towards getting to that optimum capacity of working. Same is for the governments to get visas processed on time. However, it is not as bad as it was a year back. Most Schengen governments are turning back with visas within a week or 10 days.”
Working with travel trade
Samuel informed that they have a dedicated team in place, which is playing a critical role in liaising with the travel trade members. “We have representatives across each zone and they will continue to liaison with travel trade partners to help and support them in the season and in the upcoming business,” she said.
Also, she added, for the season 2022, they are prepared to offer the travel trade fraternity premium lounge booklets to cater to bulk requirement. “This has been a feature for many years and we will continue to facilitate our members as and when the business requirements surges,” she claimed.
Vyas shared that they have dedicated counter and team for travel and trade fraternity. “At the VAC, they can get dedicated counters, especially if the volumes are higher. Recently in Mumbai, we had a separate entry for travel agents provided so that the journey into the VAC is faster.
Visa slots for different countries
Vyas said visa is completely governed by the government. “Thus there is a challenge with the appointments. Also, for the last two years, travel has been restricted. Hence, there are huge demands. On our part, we constantly talk to client governments to help them understand the situation. However, some of the client governments are fairly restricted. For instance, the UK and Canada has no restrictions. The US has restrictions,” she said. For New Zealand and Australia, it is fairly restricted. “The government had not opened its borders for the longest time and therefore, the challenge was seen,” she said.