Complying with the norms, regulations and relaxation of the Centre as well as the state governments and specific embassies, VFS Global is all set to accept visa applications for select countries across a few Indian cities.
The visa outsourcing and technology services specialist is resuming operations for a few of its Visa Application Centres in Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Cochin and Hyderabad, New Delhi, Jalandhar, Chandigarh and Kolkata for specific visa categories for the UK, Ireland, Italy, Belarus, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Dominican Republic, UAE and Turkey, informed Pranav Sinha, India Regional Head (West & South India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives), VFS Global, at a digital conference held on Wednesday.
Out of the 64 client governments that VFS Global works for in 144 countries at 3,390 application centres, it has already resumed operations 632 centres in 80 countries for 51 client governments.
Amit Kumar Sharma, Regional Head (North and East India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Israel, Nepal and Palestine, at VFS Global also joined the conference to answer some widely asked questions by their customers regarding visa application services. Here are some of the important ones:
Will Visa Application Centres (VACs) open for appointments once the lockdown lifts?
Sharma: Our VACs can open only when the local Embassy/Consulate provides approval for the re-opening. VFS Global does not decide about the re-opening of a Visa Application Centre on its own. The local Embassy / Consulate provides approval for the re-opening.
What happens to passports submitted before services were suspended?
Sharma: we will evaluate at which stage of assessment of each application is (i.e. whether it is still being assessed at the Embassy/Consulate or has been returned to the VFS Global) and resume the passport return process. Passports currently with us will be returned to the customers when the VACs are allowed to re-open.
We would like to assure our customers that passports that were returned to us from the Embassy/Consulate prior to the lockdown are in safe custody.
Would one be required to submit medical history for visa applications now?
Sharma: VFS Global does not seek a medical report for customers visiting our Centres, though medical reports are often part of required documentation in some visa applications (may or may not be related to COVID-19).
Governments may introduce health screening measures going forward, so make sure you’ve carefully been through the updated document checklist for the country you’re visiting, in case any medical and vaccination histories are required as part of your visa application.
Can I travel if I have a work or residency permit?
Sharma: If you already hold a valid work or residence permit, your travel/entry will depend on entry restrictions of that country. For fresh applications, this depends on the country you are applying for. Several countries have put in place border control measures, temporarily disallowing certain non-essential travellers from submitting visa applications. Make sure you’re checking regulations of not only your government but also that of the country you plan to visit.
What happens to a valid visa, if the country in question has restricted/banned travel?
Sharma: Those who are yet to travel and whose existing visas have expired, or expiring soon, can re-apply for a fresh visa when operations resume.
What are health and safety precautions implemented at the centres?
Sharma: As per guidelines prescribed by the World Health Organization, as well as local authorities, customers and employees at Visa Application Centres will be subject to body temperature checks, face masks and gloves – for their own protection and that of others. Centres are also maintaining preventive measures such as disinfecting high-contact surfaces, use of hand sanitizers, and social distancing practices.
When services resume, can one avoid visiting a Visa Application Centre as a physical distancing precaution?
Sharma: Once services resume, customers who wish to avoid visiting public places can also use optional services, such as the Visa At Your Doorstep service for application submission – with this service, trained VFS Global staff will visit the customer’s location of choice (home, office, etc.) to complete the visa application submission process and/or biometric enrolment if needed while maintaining necessary health precautions. In India, this service is available for 18 destination countries and will resume after lockdown subject to approvals from the concerned embassy/consulate.