By Chinedu Eze
VSF Global, the agency that provides visa service to Nigerians who seek to travel overseas said it represents 18 countries in the country and other parts of Africa.
Spokesman of the organisation, Peter Brun told THISDAY that the company has been operating in Nigeria since 2007 and has eased the process of obtaining visa to many countries of the world, noting that before it started service in Nigeria, it was cumbersome obtaining some countries’ visa from Africa’s most populous country.
Brun who said VFS Global employed about 140 Nigerians remarked that the company operates in a transparent manner, ensuring that candidates who meet given conditions by each country are given visa, adding that as official outsourcing visa application processing partner for 18 governments in Nigeria it abides by international standards.
“We make sure our operations are transparent without creating any avenue for candidates to be exploited in any way possible. For example, SMS service is optional and visa applicants are free to choose the service and also service fee approved by governments follow competitive tender processes,” Brun said.
He also disclosed that VFS Global is trusted outsourcing partner to 59 client governments across the world, noting that organisation is responsible for scheduling appointments, acceptance of applications as well as visa and logistic fees, technology integration and support, data entry and scanning, submission of applications at the Embassy and returning the passport back to the applicants.
“The visa services outsourcing process are in adherence to the strict norms laid out by the respective governments as part of competitive tender processes and in accordance to the mandatory regulations. Our services have been certified to be of the highest international standard and we have been commended several times by eminent Nigerians who have visited our Visa Application Centres. VFS Global is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Swiss Kuoni Group, which belongs to the Swedish private equity company EQT, one of Europe’s leading private equity houses.
“Short Message Service (SMS) is an optional service offered by VFS Global which applicants are not compelled to subscribe and are informed of their right to not opt for with a receipt issued if service is availed,” Brun reiterated.
He further explained that to offer greater convenience, applicants are also informed that in addition to the SMS service, they may also track their visa applications online or seek assistance by reaching out to the company’s dedicated helpline service or even visit the Visa Application Centre for an update on the status of their applications free of charge.
“Please note that VFS Global does not play a role in the final delivery of the Short Message Service (SMS) as it is dependent on the respective telecommunications service provider and other external factors. As VFS Global strives to provide this service without any disruption, it is equally important for applicants to maintain an SMS text compatible GSM mobile phone number, provide an accurate mobile number and ensure an active connection to a mobile network to receive updates,” Brun said.
According to the company’s spokesman, VFS Global would not be able to guarantee the receipt of the intended message to its applicants if their mobile phone is switched off, disconnected for any reason or is out of coverage for a period of 24 hours or more due to which the network service provider may delete any SMS. As part of the SMS service, status updates are also sent to applicants via email as well.
“Additionally, applicants can track the status of their visa application for free on the VFS Global corporate website or by contacting the dedicated call centre, email helpdesk team or by directly visiting the Visa Application Centre.
“VFS Global has also interacted with Consumer Protection Council (CPC) in the past over the SMS service which was comprehensively dealt after we made strong case that SMS services were optional which duly notified to applicants and that as a company. VFS Global cannot be held accountable for the failure of an applicant to de-subscribe to such a service,” he said.
He said CPC recognised VFS Global’s right as a commercial entity in a market economy to offer value added services at a premium as long as no one is coerced to subscribe to it.
“The service fee which applicants bear is not random in any manner. The fee has been agreed upon after considering multiple operational factors with the respective government as part of the contractual requirement through the competitive tendering process. The service fee varies for each country and is dependent on the different services provided, to offer applicants an enhanced visa application experience. All fees have been approved by the respective governments and are not arbitrary,” Brun added.