By Neeraj Nanda
Melbourne: As expected now onwards (see dates) your Indian Visa, passport, OCI collection and delivery process will be handled by a private company – M/s VFS Services Australia Pty Ltd.
The story was first broken by the South Asia Times print issue (Visa Privatization, December 2007, Page 14). A service charge of A$ 16.36 plus GST per applicant will apply in addition to regular fees by the private company handling the services. Other services not covered by the company will continue to be handled by the High Commission in Canberra and respective Consulates in different cities.
In a message to the Indian community by Indian High Commissioner in Canberra, Sujata Singh, Emailed to the media, the High Commissioner says, “The decision to outsource this work is in order to ensure that our visa, passport and OCI application process is as efficient and customer friendly as possible. The growing Indian community in Australia and the rapid transformation of India-Australia relations in recent years has resulted, inter-alia, in an unprecedented growth in the number of business travelers, tourists and other Australian residents visiting India. Given the strong growth in interactions in the economic, commercial, technological, educational, cultural and virtually all other fields, and the close ties that the vibrant Indian Australian community retain with their country of origin, the demand for visa & passport and other consular services continues to grow.”
A media release by the Indian High Commission says that M/s VFS will set up Visa & Passport Services Centres (V&PSC) and they will start functioning in Canberra (30th January), Sydney (21 February), Melbourne (4 March 2008), Brisbane (14 March 2008), Perth (28 March 2008) and Adelaide (18 April 2008). The adressses and contact numbers of the V&PSC’s are not yet known.
For further details, visit the website of the High Commission of India, Canberra (http://www.hcindia-au.org), Consulate General of India, Sydney (http://www.indianconsulatesydney.org), and Consulate General of India, Melbourne (http://www.cgindiamel-au.org).
(Read detailed story in the January 2008 edition of South Asia Times)