Indian mission in UK probes illegal visa handlers

LONDON: The Indian High Commission here has said that it is investigating reports of unauthorised agents illegally charging fees to get visas processed for travellers to India, amid reports of a severe visa crunch faced by British tourists to the country.
While British travellers booked to fly out to India in the coming weeks have been complaining of a lack of availability of visa slots to get their visas processed in time, the Indian mission on Friday alerted travellers to scams and stressed that it is working on streamlining processes.
It also dismissed claims in sections of the UK media that there had been a sudden visa rule change that had impacted British tourists and reiterated that individual visa applicants have always been expected to apply in person at the mission’s outsourced VFS Global centres in London.
“It has come to our notice that unauthorised agents and individuals are illegally charging fees and collecting India visa applications for submission at VFS Centres, misleading applicants and misrepresenting the services that they can legally provide,” the High Commission’s statement said.
“It is underlined that this matter is currently being investigated. High Commission of India emphasises that M/s VFS Global Services is the only authorised Outsourcing Service Provider for India-related passport/visa/ and consular services in the UK.
As per established procedure, individual visa applicants are, and have always been required to submit visa applications at the VFS Centres in person… It is reiterated that there is NO change in the visa application process for individual visa applicants,” the statement reads.
“High Commission of India assures our friends in the UK that it remains our constant endeavour to improve the visa services by streamlining the visa processes and to address any delays and shortfalls in services,” it adds.
The UK no longer falls within the over 150 countries that can access the online tourist e-visa option when travelling to India, which has caused considerable strain for tourists who are facing long waits at the VFS centres for their applications to be processed.
According to consular officials, the crunch on processing dates available was caused by travel agents block-booking appointments and making it harder for individual applicants to get a visa appointment.
The issue is among the priorities for the new High Commissioner, Vikram Doraiswami, who visited a visa application centre in west London “to listen to applicants’ issues, especially delays in getting appointments for services” immediately after taking charge recently.
The visa backlog follows high demand in the wake of the COVID pandemic lockdowns, with many tourists attempting to make up for cancelled or postponed trips to India.



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