VFS Global, the world’s largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide, has put together a quick visa guide for travellers planning their end-of-summer holidays.
A Q&A with Sumanth Kapoor, Business Head – KSA, Bahrain and Oman, VFS Global.
- What is VFS Global’s role in the visa process?
We manage non-judgmental and administrative tasks related to applications for visa, passport and consular, identity and citizen services for governments part of our client portfolio. This allows diplomatic missions (i.e., embassies/consulates) to effectively manage their time and resources and focus on the critical task of assessing visa applications and making decisions on whether to grant a visa or not.
- How does the key visa application trends look like?
In KSA, we are witnessing higher daily volume – 15-20% more than the same period in 2019 with passport applications seeing a steady daily count.
- If I am travelling to the UK with stopover in EU member states, do I need Schengen airport transit visa?
Yes, Schengen airport transit visa is mandatory for travellers with a stopover. This requirement has been in place for many years.
- How early before my travel dates should I apply for my visa?
When planning your travels, you always book flights and hotels in advance. Do the same for visas.
Most countries accept visa applications up to 90 days (3 months) before your date of travel. According to the revised Schengen Visa Code, effective 02 February 2020, you can apply for a Schengen visa up to 6 months before your date of travel. Particularly this year with higher demand and limited appointment slots available, we urge applicants to apply for their visa as early as possible. VFS Global forwards applications as per the agreed service level agreements with the embassy/consulate.
- What are the typical turnaround timelines for visas?
Each country has a different timeline for its visa processing, and these timelines are mentioned on VFS Global websites, providing you the information required to apply for your visa well in advance. Be aware that during peak season visa processing can take longer than anticipated, hence apply early. Each application is unique and thus the processing time may differ for each case.
- What is the appointment allotment process at VFS Global?
Appointment slots are offered online based on volume of demand or forecast, and in conjunction with the embassy’s own internal capacity planning. Once scheduled, we highly recommend being at the centre 15 minutes prior the appointed time to avoid missing your slot. Appointments are free, beware of fraudulent parties selling appointments in exchange of money. We urge applicants not to pay for any appointments being offered.
- I am confused about documentation, which varies depending on who I ask! Which are the correct documents to submit?
A checklist of the documentation required for visa applications for each country served by VFS Global is available on our website. Be sure to carry all the requisite documentation, including a printout of the checklist, to submit along with the duly filled application form. Check your passport – many countries require a valid passport six months beyond your return date.
- How do I track the status of my application?
Once your application is submitted, you can track the progress of your application online through VFS Global website. Additionally, you can opt for the SMS service, and receive timely updates on your mobile phone.
The status will be updated as and when your passport is ready for collection/delivery. Be aware that VFS Global cannot track your application during the assessment process within an embassy or consulate.
- Can VFS Global offer me advice and guidance on visa categories and vaccination?
VFS Global is not authorised to provide advice or guidance on visa category or any other visa requirement that the customer may need. VFS Global manages the administrative and non-judgmental aspects of the visa process only, such as visa application submission and biometric enrolment. VFS Global does not comment on vaccine requirements. All travellers are requested to check the destination / transit country guidelines for the same.
- Can I expedite the process? Does availing any of the value-added services guarantee a faster visa outcome?
The time taken for visa processing differs for each mission. Please check the turnaround timelines on our websites before applying.
Applicants looking for further ease and convenience in their application journey can opt for one of our specially designed solutions such as Visa At Your Doorstep, to complete the visa application process from a location of their choice. Our Premium Lounge is also available within our Visa Application Centres to provide end-to-end assistance throughout the visa application process. Applicants can visit our website to see if these services are available for the country they are applying to. Since the pandemic, we have witnessed a marked increase in demand for these personalised services.
It must be noted, however, that opting for any optional, value-added services (such as VAYD, Prime Time Services, Form-filling, or any other service) does not guarantee a quicker or more positive decision by the concerned embassy/consulate. Optional and value-added services are available for select client governments only, as per agreed service level agreements with those governments.