Kozhikode VFS centre: Latest guidelines pose challenges for visa applicants

The Kochi centre is still crowded even though a new centre has been opened in Kozhikode. File Photo

Damam: Keralite expatriates living in Saudi Arabia were hopeful when a VFS (Visa Facilitation Service) visa stamping centre was opened in Kozhikode.

However, there have been reports that the difficulties faced by those who reach the VFS centre for getting family visas or visiting visas stamped remain the same. Earlier, the only centre was at Kochi where huge crowds turn up for stamping visas. So, the authorities decided to open a new centre in the Malabar region in order to help the huge number of applicants here.

Even though many could get their visas stamped without travelling to Kochi, most people complain that the latest guidelines are stricter. The VFS has been assigned to complete the visa stamping and biometric processes in India itself in order to raise the service standards and also to make these processes easier.

However, people are struggling as the procedures and guidelines have become stricter and more complex. Meanwhile, the expatriates are hopeful that these complex procedures would be simplified soon.

Besides, they say that there has been a significant increase in the service fees too. Earlier, the stamping could be done for Rs 10,000. However, now, up to Rs 16,000 is collected as service fees. Moreover, those who manage to get an appointment are often asked to return citing slight errors or mistakes that are negligible. There have also been instances of families facing difficulties when a family member’s visa application gets rejected due to errors while the others are allowed visas.

Even if they rectify the mistakes, they are able to book an appointment online only after trying for days or even weeks. In case the visa for a family member is allowed via Saudi Arabia’s embassy in New Delhi, then they have to complete the remaining procedures at the VFS centres in Kolkata, Lucknow or Delhi.

A student, hailing from Kollam who was born and brought up in Saudi Arabia and is currently doing post-graduation in Kerala had to recently face such difficulties. She tried to get her visiting visa stamped at the centre in Kochi in order to visit her parents. It was only then that she realised that her visa was allowed via the embassy in Delhi and that no booking slots were available in Kochi for the next three months.

The student then had to travel to Delhi in order to get the visa stamped as she wouldn’t be able to fly to Saudi Arabia after three months. She says that such experiences are extremely painful for people who are coming from faraway places.

One of the latest guidelines says that a wife who had visited Saudi on a visiting visa earlier should submit the old passport in which the old visa had been stamped in order to apply for a new visa. An expatriate, who hails from Alappuzha, recently struggled to get his family’s visas stamped as only half of family members’ applications were received. His wife, kids and parents had visited Saudi Arabia multiple times. His mother’s name is Jameela Beevi and his father’s name is Aliyaru Kunju. The mother’s name on the passport is Jameela Aliyaru Kunju. However, his father’s stamping application was received while the mother’s application was rejected as her passport didn’t have the name ‘Beevi’ on it.

The family now has to go through the time-consuming application processes again in order to get the mother’s visa stamped.

Moreover, the Kochi centre is still crowded even though a new centre has been opened in Kozhikode. The expatriates and visa applicants say that the procedures were simpler earlier. They hope that things would get back to normal soon. 

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