VFS Global Endeavours to Ease Arrival Process in Thailand by Introducing E-Visa On Arrival (eVOA) Services

BW Hotelier in a detailed interview with Zubin Karkaria, CEO, VFS Global Group learned about the advantages of the eVOA with special reference to the Indian market, handling Data Security, and other exclusives about the company with its services present in 143 countries across the world.


THE IMMIGRATION Bureau of Thailand has recently partnered with VFS Global, a global outsourcing & technology services major, to extend the new eVisa On Arrival (eVOA) service which translates to a hassle-free convenient arrival process of travellers from 21 countries including India. The move is in-line with the Government of Thailand’s initiative to promote tourism. Set to be available to the travellers from February 14, 2019, BW Hotelier in a detailed interview with Zubin Karkaria, CEO, VFS Global Group learned about the advantages of the eVOA with special reference to the Indian market, handling Data Security, and other exclusives about the company with its services present in 143 countries across the world. Excerpts:

With the recent unveiling of the eVOA services to Thailand, how is VFS Global committed to making it hassle-free for the Indian Travellers?

ZK: VFS Global has always been firmly committed to working with our client governments in continuously enhancing the overall visa application experience for applicants. It is an honour for us to work with the Immigration Bureau, Royal Thai Police, to develop and roll out the new Thailand E-Visa On Arrival (eVOA) service, available for Indians travelling to Thailand from 14 February 2019.

The eVOA essentially allows travellers to reduce time spent at major airports in Thailand as it enables a faster and smoother immigration clearance process through dedicated eVOA Immigration counters. This is especially beneficial for travellers from India as several flights from India land into Thailand in the early morning hours and after an overnight flight travellers are all very keen on exiting the airport and getting to their hotel as quickly as possible without standing in long queues, filling up paper forms and changing currency at the airport to pay for the visa fees.

For Indian travellers, it means completing a simple online eVOA application form, uploading their documents and making the fee payment in a seamless process before departure, on thailandevoa.vfsevisa.com from the comfort of their home or office, and receiving the eVOA within 24 to 72 hours by email.

They do not need to carry physical copies of documents or photographs with them to Thailand or complete complicated physical visa application forms on arrival or pay visa fees in Thai Baht on arrival. This ensures a very simple and quick arrival process in Thailand – something that every traveller wants after a long flight. Travellers can submit the application online on their own or via travel agents or any VFS Global Visa Application Centre.

Can you please provide the statistics on the total footfall of Indian visitors to Thailand in 2018? How will the unveiling of this eVOA service further thrust the number Y-O-Y?

ZK: Thailand has for a long time been a top tourist destination market for Indian travellers. Consider this: of the almost 1.6 million Indians who visited Thailand in 2018, over 900,000 used the current paper form-filling and time-consuming Visa On Arrival service at Thailand airports. In fact, Indians are the second largest nationality using the Visa On Arrival option, after Chinese nationals.

So we do expect measures like the eVOA to dramatically enhance visitors’ experience of arrival into Thailand and start their visit on a positive note. We are convinced that travel-friendly measures such as the eVOA will have a positive impact on further developing travel and tourism from India to this popular destination.

What advantages can a traveller avail through this eVOA service? Are you considering to make further value-additions to the same?

ZK: The advantages are clear – eVOA eliminates the uncertainty about getting the Visa On Arrival, as travellers get it before their departure; Travellers can breeze through Immigration using dedicated eVOA counters and avoid the long paper-based Visa On Arrival queues; As all documentation is submitted at the time of application from the comfort of one’s home or office, there are no visa application forms to be filled or documentation to be carried; No need to arrange for local currency at the airport as the visa fees are paid online along with the eVOA application; In case of urgent travel, using the Express Service can get one the eVOA within 24 hours.

Currently, there is a waiver on Thailand visa fees until April 30, 2019. During this period, travellers opting for the eVOA need to only pay the service fee to get the new convenient and time-saving immigration process. Travellers who enter Thailand at the Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in Bangkok, and at the Phuket and Chiang Mai airports, can use this service.

Besides the eVOA solution, we also manage the processing of regular visas through Thailand Visa Application Centres in 14 cities across India and are proud to be associated with the Royal Thai Embassy with whom we share a long-standing relationship since 2005.

Being recognised as the global leader in outsourcing & technology services for governments & diplomatic mission in the world over, what other developments are you bringing across the globe in 2019 for global travellers to further make Visa processes seamless, which still a major lot of travellers assume to be cumbersome?

ZK: VFS Global continuously works with our client governments in introducing innovative service solutions that increase convenience and flexibility for applicants, and reduce the administrative burden on visa sections of our client governments.

A global trend we are seeing is that new visa services and products, especially if they are personalised in nature, tend to be very well received. So whether it is having Premium Lounges at our centres to offer personalised assistance, or Visa At Your Doorstep services that reach every corner of the country, or centres that are kept operational outside the regular hours – small and big service innovations are happening across all our services in an unrestrained manner.

Mobile apps, e-visa solutions we have developed such as the Brazil e-visa and UAE e-visa for Emirates Airlines, ‘paperless’ processing solutions for our client governments, biometric enrolments for millions of applicants that come through our centres annually – these are some of the solutions aimed at easing the process for the modern traveller who is far more sophisticated, aware and prefers speed and comfort at every step of his travel process.

Some recent game-changing innovations introduced by VFS Global include:

A. Visa at your doorstep: With this service, visa application officers visit the applicant’s home, office or location of choice to accept the visa application and enrol biometrics.

C. Mobile Visa Application Centres ‘on wheels’: Mobile vans are fully equipped for visa application (with biometrics setup) to ensure better accessibility to applicants who cannot travel to the physical VACs.

D. Chatbot for round-the-clock visa queries: ViVA is the first-ever visa services chatbot launched by VFS Global for Australia visa applicants in India last year. It is custom-created to provide 24/7 assistance for queries related to the visa application process.

E. LIDPro™: One example of innovation is a program named LIDPro™ (Location Independent Document Processing), developed in collaboration with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (MFA). With this, the MFA has been able to reduce the number of visa officers involved in visa processing in the Consulate General of Finland in St. Petersburg, Russia, from over 100 during peak seasons to less than 20. A resounding success led by a digital solution.

With Data Security bothering everyone across the globe, how does VFS Global strive to maintain the behemoth global data’s secrecy and from falling prey to breach and theft?

ZK: Today, as a company that handles large volumes of applicant information (for visas and citizen services), VFS Global is one of just 35 per cent of global companies that are compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation recently introduced in the European Union (as per a Talend report published in September 2018). Indeed, the last year has witnessed a lot of discussions and new legislation in the area of data protection. Within this time, there have been around 100 new data protection laws, including the GDPR, enacted in countries around the world. For many countries, this is a first-time law.

In fact, VFS Global has always understood the tremendous importance of Data Protection and Information Security in this business and over the years has consistently invested significant resources in developing systems and processes to ensure the highest level of information security and data protection.

Our operations are compliant with the most stringent global standards – including with the GDPR, and ISO 27001 certified for Information Security management. It is also important to note that we have dedicated and separate heads managing our Information Security and Data

Protection functions, both of whom are highly experienced professionals in their respective fields.

From an operational perspective, we ensure that the millions of data dockets we handle and all allied systems are safeguarded in real time at multiple levels (virtual and physical), using sophisticated technologies and equipment and monitored by regional and central command centres.

Given the quantum and nature of data processed at VFS Global, we have a 13-point data privacy and protection framework that has over 130 measurable metrics enabling us to monitor data protection across the organisation. This framework adheres to the new GDPR which also forms the baseline for most data protection legislations that may be introduced in any new country.

Hence, we are today one of the few companies (in any sector) easily able to adapt to new data protection legislations that may be introduced in any of the 143 countries we operate in.

This level of compliance naturally requires an investment in skills and technology to implement and manage such a framework. We have always been clear that managing a truly global company where your clients are sovereign governments demands very high service standards. With the inherently sensitive nature of the business, we acknowledge there is an important mandate on us to handle this data responsibly and securely.

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