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Changes in Indian Visa Outsourcing. Problems Ahead with BLS?

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Airplane flying over a Building, Pune, Maharashtra, India
Yogesh S. More/age fotostock/Getty Images

Yesterday, I wrote about the forthcoming closure of VFS India Passport & Visa Services in Bangkok, and the mystery of which organization would be responsible for visa processing in the future.

After getting feedback from readers and doing some research, it seems that major changes are underway in the outsourcing of Indian visa processing -- not just in Bangkok but worldwide.  According to this news report, the Indian government decided to stop issuing outsourcing contracts to foreign companies because of complaints,  particularly from people of Indian origin in the US, about service.

As the existing contracts of foreign outsourcing firms expire around the world, they're being replaced by an Indian company. So far, a company called BLS International Services Limited, based in Delhi, seems to be getting all the contracts. The company is now providing visa processing services in countries including Canada, China, and South Africa.

BLS was also awarded the contract in the US. However, the contract it was canceled not long after without reason, amidst reports that the Indian government was caught in a visa scandal. A new company has yet to be appointed, despite six months passing, and the contract of US-based service provider Travisa Outsourcing has been extended. (Note, it's now been announced that BLS  will be taking over processing of Indian visas in the US, effective from July 1, 2013. The company has again been awarded the contract).

What's interesting is that BLS is providing outsourced services at rates significantly lower than its foreign predecessors. In Canada, this is $7.40 per applicant, as opposed to the $20 being charged previously by VFS.  Yet, disappointingly, it seems that service standards have also plummeted along with the price.

This blog has declared the India visa system to be a mess in Canada. The author writes:

"On 28 February all the Indian visa offices run by VFS Global of India were closed by order of the Indian government. All staff were fired. The next day, Friday 01 March 2013 the Indian visa offices re-opened in different locations across Canada under new management - BLS India.

It was a rough start, to put it mildly.

Some BLS offices did not open to the public. People arrived to find CLOSED signs on doors.

The Indian government announced the new BLS telephone number, but actually listed the personal private home number of a Toronto resident who did not understand why people were yelling at him in Hindi....

As of last week BLS changed their rules and banned all agents and agencies from assisting with Indian visas..."

The comments at the bottom of this article reveal more problems. There are reports of phones remaining engaged, unanswered emails, unhelpful staff, misleading information on the website, and long delays.  (In short, all the issues you can expect to encounter at a typical Indian government office). People are wondering why VFS was replaced by BLS, which they claim couldn't possibly be any worse.

It's concerning to think that if BLS is taking over visa outsourcing contracts all over the world, these problems may soon become common everywhere when applying for an Indian visa.  Travisa and VFS may not have been perfect, but at least they'd managed to introduce some efficiency into the system.

What are your thoughts about the changes?

Note: Latest news reports indicate that BLS is to Cease Indian Visa Processing in the US.

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