For the past two and a half years, Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) Global, a third-party provider of visa and passport issuance services around the world, including Pakistan and India, appears to have been dealing with serious administrative and potential fraud issues.
The international company, which has three main offices in Pakistan, is in charge of facilitating visa, passport, and consular services for non-European and Schengen countries such as the Netherlands (Holland) and Portugal.
VFS Global Pakistan has limited the number of booking slots available for various types of visas for the Netherlands, including the Friends and Family visa and Tourist visa, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the relaxation of COVID-related restrictions around the world, VFS has continued to limit the number of visa appointment bookings available on its website.
This is despite a September 16 company website note stating the end of COVID-19 entry rules for travelers to the Netherlands, which followed a June 27 website notification about potentially longer waiting times for appointments and application processing, citing “a growing number of applicants” wishing to travel to the Netherlands following less stringent COVID-related travel restrictions worldwide.
“The number of available appointments will be expanded as soon as possible,” VFS said in its June 27 notice. “New appointment slots will be added to the online appointment system regularly.”
Such a problem should have been addressed by an international company with “3395 application centers and operations in 144 countries across 5 continents,” with additional staff hiring and upgrading technical resources to ensure that new appointment slots are “regularly” added to the online appointment system.
However, VFS appears to have failed miserably in keeping those words and has cost a significant amount of stress and despair among Pakistanis looking to travel to Schengen countries such as the Netherlands for more than two years.
While booking slots are typically unavailable throughout the month, a handful of slots appear at random near the end of the month after a several-week wait.
The website, on the other hand, becomes extremely buggy and fails to proceed to the payment page, randomly displaying errors such as “selected booking slot day and/or time unavailable” and “too many attempts made,” requiring the user to log back in after two hours.
This misery ends within 24 hours, as the online booking slots (particularly in the Visiting Family and Friends category) no longer appear after a day of “availability.”
VFS representatives prefer to dismiss this as “limited slots due to growing demand for travel amid relaxed COVID-related restrictions” via email and phone.
However, hundreds, if not thousands, of anonymous people are posing as VFS Global agents on social media platforms like Facebook and illegally selling visa appointments in various online groups for a large profit (often at least thrice the amount of the usual visa cost otherwise paid to VFS).
While VFS has previously stated on its website that it is wary of false promises of jobs or immigration, the company appears to have done virtually nothing to prevent these fraudulent activities in countries such as Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, despite clear evidence available online.
To read our blog on “P@SHA becomes an authority to issue Visa invitation letters,” click here