Governments are Outsourcing handling of Visa Applications to Private Companies

The Daily Mail reveals today:

Millions of visas allowing foreigners to enter Britain are being issued by an American company and a High Street travel agent rather than British diplomats.

The system – never officially announced to Parliament – means that instead of filling in a form at a British embassy and facing an interview by diplomatic staff, visa applicants are directed to commercially run ‘official’ offices around the world.

And hundreds of thousands of applicants simply fill in a form on a website run by the US company.

The two private firms are responsible for dealing with about 80 per cent of the 2.75 million visa applications every year, two million of which are successful.[Note: this is the UK only]

[…]

The American outsourcing firm, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), also runs an advice hotline charging large fees payable by credit card in dollars to help applicants complete visa forms, but which is described as ‘completely useless’ in a Government report.

Virginia-based CSC has opened visa application centres in 14 countries and is running websites and call centres covering 87 others. Its so-called WorldBridge Service uses no diplomats or other British Government staff.

A similar service is offered by VFS-Global, part of the Swiss-based travel firm Kuoni, better known for its luxury package holidays.

And best of all is this:

The man who heads the American company responsible for issuing thousands of British visas is Michael W. Laphen, a former National Security Adviser to President George W. Bush.

Mr Laphen is paid more than $1million (£671,000) a year as chief executive and chairman of CSC, the owner of WorldBridge. His total annual ‘compensation’ package is worth more than £5million.

Just let me point out one of the issues here again. Governments are outsourcing their services to private companies who then go on to make a hefty profit from these services that you must consume. That alone should be stopped.

However, there is more to this story because not only Britain is doing this.  VFS Global – which is part of Kuoni, but is domiciled in India – delivers the same services for many other governments.  Among their customer is also the Swiss government:

Meaning that coming from these countries, you may have your data handled by a private company, GFS Global, when you apply for a Visa to Switzerland.
Vice versa, if you are Swiss, you may have your data handled by GFS Global when you apply for a Visa to India:

Visas to India

This get’s particularly interesting, when you look at the VGS Global website and read about their Biometrics Capability, or about the services they are offering or intend to offer in this area:

In our constant endeavor to provide the best service to visa applicants and keeping in sync with the latest in technology, VFS Global recently completed a mammoth exercise of providing biometrics service for  UKvisas at all its posts globally (where VFS Global has been offered this mandate). We are privileged to provide this service at the following countries: India, Singapore, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, China, Ghana, Qatar, Indonesia, Nigeria, Russia, Thailand, Nepal, Philippines, South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE, Pakistan, Oman, South Korea, Ethiopia, Japan, Saudi Arabia & Syria. Today, VFS Global is the only outsourced service company that has the capability to seamlessly integrate biometrics in the operational flow pertaining to visa processing. [their emphasis]
Under this system, an applicant desirous of traveling to the UK can visit an UKvisas application center in any one of the countries mentioned above. Finger scanning and capturing of digital photograph are managed concurrently in order to link the fingerprints to the face of the visa applicant. The digital photography and electronic finger scanning procedure is quick, discreet and entirely safe. The entire biometric process takes just five minutes! The biometric data collected, is stored on a database in the UK and held strictly in accordance with United Kingdom legislation, including the Data Protection Act 1998. [my emphasis]

So as an Indian applying for a visa to the UK you will have your biometrics data stored in the UK.

This is interesting, especially for Swiss, who about a year ago voted yes to the introduction of biometric passports as well as to the central storage of their data with Swiss authorities in Switzerland.

One of the talking point of the government was that the ‘data would not be stored by or in foreign countries, it would just be read by the authorities when you present your passport at the customs.’

Obviously, this is and was then untrue.  As the above proves, is that it is entirely up to the host country, i.e. the country giving you the visa, what it wants to do with your data and there is nothing you can do about it.
In addition, the data may be stored, cached and/or handled by a private enterprise, which they also said would not be the case.

Of course, this is only when you are travelling to a country that requires you to have a visa, right? When travelling in countries where no visa and not even a passport is required you should be save. Well Swiss ID cards carry – or will carry – that biometric information too, and they can be read at any time by foreign authorities and private companies. They can store the data as they see fit.

New world order indeed.

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