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25 Oct 2017

Germany: visa application services being outsourced to private companies

Germany: visa application services being outsourced to private companiesAccording to the Deutche Welle (DW),  Germany is ready to give up directing Schengen visa application process in embassies and consulates any longer. This means that the country is transferring the obligation of delivering such administrative services to 18 companies, which will work on behalf of Germany embassies and consulates. At present German Schengen visa services in 9 different foreign countries are subcontracted by license to private companies, as an effort to reduce public costs and discharge from the management of administrative aspects of the German visa application process.

As the DW speaks, agreeing to its source Tageszeitung, Federal Foreign Office has confirmed that Germany has already permitted private companies to offer Schengen visa services for German Schengen visa applicants. Among other companies approved to offer such services on Germany’s behalf, is also the leading private sub-contractor, the Indian company VFS Global.

Through outsourcing licenses, these private companies will get the authorization for delivering application forms to Schengen visa applicants, collect passports and filled application forms as well as electronic fingerprint data of the same applicants for an administrative review. For the services offered by these private companies, visa aspirants will be charged an extra fee, despite the regular ones to apply for a visa.

These companies, however, will not be given permission to decide on application decision, to access Schengen information systems, or the right to use visa labels. Such authorizations will remain in the hands of German embassies and consulates in foreign countries.

Since the time the German Foreign Ministry has announced the outsourcing of the visa application process, there are noises considering that this process might put into danger private data security of visa applicants, leading to data leaks and corruptive affairs of foreign staff. There is a great risk of passports and other personal information passing through outsourcing private companies before and after the visa consulate processes the application – they said.

Green party Bundestag member Omid Nouripour believes that there is a great danger to Germany discontinuing to have the complete control over a delicate process such as visa issuance, where is a plenty of room for corruption.

Left party MP Sevim Dagdelen stated that is unmanageable anymore for the state to remain the key controller of such process, adding that public costs need to be reduced and opportunities for private companies need to be offered instead.

Felt tackled by such criticizers, the spokesman o VFS Global Peter Brun responded by affirming that his company has no executive power to issue or refuse a visa, nor the permission to fastening or slowing such process. He explained that the company’s only role in this course is to solely inspect if the application forms are duly completed and if the appropriate supporting documents are submitted by visa applicants, followed by sending them to the embassy and consulate such reviewed applications for the procession. He added that the information is deleted at the end of the entire process either if visa is given or refused, stating that there is no way for VFS to store any such information.

Moreover, VFS spokesperson said that it is cheaper for embassies and consulates to engage outsourcing companies in visa application process, adding that it is economical and easier for them to discharge from long lines, the employment of the security staff and handle visa infrastructure.

Such declaration was also confirmed by the German Foreign Ministry spokesperson stating that outsourcing companies are powerless to make any decision to issue or refuse a visa. Moreover is said that such companies are required by contract to obey German data protection laws, something that disallows  them from storing private visa data on servers out of the EEA or on their own systems.

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