Published On: Thu, Apr 30th, 2015

Queuing up for visa may be a thing of past

MUMBAI: In a few years, Indians travelling overseas may have the option of completing visa formalities through smartphone apps. That’s not all—if you reside in a small town, and don’t want to travel to a big city to complete your visa application procedure, you can have the documents picked up and finger prints scanned from your doorstep for a fee.

These are some of the services that visa facilitator VFS Global aims to introduce to make pre-travel formalities easier and faster for customers, its CEO Zubin Karkaria told ET in a recent interview.

VFS, founded in Mumbai and headquartered in London, is the world’s biggest visa facilitator. It operates 1,514 application centres in 120 countries, representing 45 governments. It represents India in 10 countries with 33 visa application centres.

Karkaria said the company is in talks with governments to make visa procedures more technologically relevant, “while ensuring security and complete data protection”. “So there is a match between efficiency, customer service and security,” he added.

For instance, the company is in the final stages of testing a mobile app for visa application to the UAE for passengers of Emirates. It has also created applications which it plans to present to the governments in the Schengen area (area comprising countries in Europe that have abolished passport or any other type of border control) such as Belgium and Switzerland. The app, however, won’t be able to collect biometric—usually fingerprint—details that are required by countries like the US and the UK for visa application procedures.

Starting October, Indians travelling to any of the 26 Schengen countries will also have to undergo biometric scans as part of the application procedure. In such a process, the details are matched at the destination airport, once the passenger lands.

The “mobile biometrics”, apart from collecting filled forms and samples from the applicant’s house, also entails VFS employees setting up camps in towns. Interested applicants can come with documents and get their fingerprints scanned. The details are sent in real-time to visa centres where they are processed.

VFS had, at the behest of the UK government, set up such a camp in Goa in 2013.

Experts say that with the Modi government giving a push to the tourism sector, positive macroeconomic scenario and growing demand for foreign travel, more passengers are likely to travel overseas.

Last year, VFS handled 3.21 million outbound visa applications from India, up 30% on year.

According to Karkaria, VFS is also working with the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai to facilitate bill payments for health services, licences, maintenance and water works. It is also working with the government of Orissa for providing building plan approvals for real estate developers.

In India, VFS operates 29 citizen service centres. It has 3,200 employees of which 1,550 are in India

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