British travellers to India unhappy over visa delays

By Venkata Vemuri, IANS,

London : People are writing letters to British newspapers complaining about tourist visa delays ever since the Indian high commission in London stopped issuing them and instead entrusted an agent, VFS Global, with the task.

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The latest is a complaint by Marcus Phugh of Wrexham, who writes in a letter to The Telegraph: “I sent off my passport, application form and a postal order for 30 pounds to VFS Global, the new agent that handles Indian visa applications. That was four weeks ago and I have heard nothing since.”

Phugh says he sent the passports by special delivery so he knows they have arrived at the VFS office. “However, VFS’s tracking service says ‘record not found’. Nobody answers the phone or responds to emails and faxes.”

He says he is concerned that the reason for the delay is visa fees may have gone up since he sent in his application, but is unable to verify. “We go on holiday next month and I am worried that the visas will not arrive.”

The newspaper has a resident expert in Gill Charlton who solves travel conundrums. Phugh’s letter made him focus on Indian visas. He replies to Phugh: “I tried to contact VFS Global in London. A visa officer at the Indian High Commission said that there was currently only one telephone line but that a new switchboard would be operational this week. This does not appear to have happened as I still can’t get through.”

Charlton says he contacted two other visa agencies, CIBT and Benmar, who got back to him saying “they had experienced delays in obtaining visas for customers since the Indian High Commission appointed VFS Global to administer the application process”.

A CIBT spokesperson told him: “Couriers and applicants who visit the VFS offices have priority. I wouldn’t be surprised if postal applications take a lot longer.”

Charlton writes that the High Commission used to provide a same-day service for visa agents and personal callers but this has been withdrawn. It now takes visa agents three to five working days to obtain Indian tourist visas.

He even quotes a visa courier as saying that he was recently told to retrieve his customers’ visas from a big bin of approved visas. They had been stamped by the High Commission but had yet to be sorted and sent back to their owners.