Thursday, July 10, 2008

VFS Fleecing Unsuspecting UK Visa Applicants

Here is the letter I sent to the honorable British High Commission after I came back from VFS center in Hyderabad -- a horrible experience! VFS people clearly told me that we are advising no visa to me as my photo does not confirm to specifications. Interestingly, the VFS notoriety is exposed -- British High Commission did issue me a visa (and my chin in the visa was clearly visible!) and that too in record time of 3 days -- wow, that's for great customer service!

30 June, 2008

Sir Richard Stagg
British High Commission
New Delhi - 110021

Sub: VFS fleecing unsuspecting applicants and giving out applicants' information to third parties

Respected Sir,

We appreciate your interest in promoting better business ties between UK and India. I am the director of user research at Kern Communications Pvt. Ltd., a 100% export oriented unit registered with STPI in Hyderabad.

I and a colleague of mine were at the VFS center in Hyderabad today (30 June, 2008) morning to submit our applications for a Business Visitors visa for UK. We both were surprised at the way VFS employees were fleecing unsuspecting applicants.

a. We both had a photographs that match ALL the required criteria perfectly - new photo, exact size verified by a scale, color photo, white background background, full face with no covering, etc. However, we were asked to get new photographs shot at the VFS center for Rs. 100/- a shot. 

When we asked them about the reasons, I was told that they cannot scan the photo as "your chin got completely cut in the scan". On the other hand, my colleague's photo was rejected due to "photo on non-glossy paper," however, the photo that was taken had no difference in the gloss with the photo that was produced. Both the above reasons sound baseless and seemed only to fleece applicants.

b. We were forced to pay Rs. 170/- for courier as extra. This information only available only in "Additional Services" in VFS website and is not mentioned in any routine document or webpage. When we enquired about this additional charge, we were told that VFS can deliver the passport at the counter only two days after the courier does, however if we want it speeded up by 2 days we must pay the courier fee.

I would like to ask a couple of questions to the honorable high commissioner:
a. I understand that the British High Commission delivers the passports at one time, but why should VFS deliver the passports two days after the courier delivery?
b. If the above is true, why does VFS or British High Commission add that visa facilitation charges to visa charges so that it does not leave a sour taste? or clearly specify upfront that there will be courier charges?

c. VFS is giving private and confidential information about the applicants to third parties that are neither UK government departments nor public authorities. I got an email from RKG Consulting, a private company, with subject "Sending Staff to UK: New visa rules" immediately after my visit to VFS center. I understand that I have not given my email address to any third parties except VFS who know about my visit to UK. This is absolute violation of my privacy and would like to register my complaint against this. I am attaching the said mail and its attachments as PDFs for your reference.

Sir, today's experience at the facilitation center and the breach of my privacy left a sour taste. I would request your esteemed office to look into the matter to ensure that VFS does not fleece the applicants and correct information is given to the applicants at all times. Please also advise if VFS has any right to pass applicants' private and confidential information to third parties?

Thanks and regards,
- Ripul Kumar

Ripul Kumar
Director, Usability Consulting & User Research
Kern Communications Pvt. Ltd.

* Usability in India *


as_him said...

I went with Ripul to submit the VISA application and the whole experience felt like a typical Indian Government office, where the guy behind the desk are experts in creative fleecing.

Who disagrees with a guy who is supposed to give you the precious VISA? I made sure that my photos were exactly as mentioned on the VISA form, and still I was told I had the wrong photo.
And I had to cough up Rs100 for 4 photos which were printed on the same kind of paper as the old ones.

Then I was sent to another guy who asked me to pay Rs170 for biometric scanning. I could not believe my ears! I went to confirm with Ripul, and came back with the guy now saying that the charges are for the courier-walah to deliver the passport..

And above all, I was asked to write my comments in the visitors' book! I do not think anyone from their office reads that.

ripul said...

VFS Global is a fleecing machine and they have fine tuned their fleecing tactics over time. And, who will complaint against them? And why?

Adam said...

I am currently in the process of applying for an indian visa in the UK...and it's also run by VFS! They're a joke. I'm a journalist but visiting for tourism purposes - so they make me provide extra documentation promising not to do any journalism while I'm there. I send the form and the fees..then they tell me I haven't paid enough money for my journalist visa! I've tried explaining I'm going as a tourist but they've decided to up the price without explanation. And contacting them is a nightmare-you have to go through their premium rate call centre in India - you can't contact the office in the UK directly! A LONG complaint letter going somewhere for this!!