MOSCOW, Nov. 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- On November 25 the Krasnoyarsk Joint Visa Service Center (VSC) will open its doors. At the Center, the residents of Krasnoyarsk and of the surrounding area will be able to obtain visas for travel to several countries. Krasnoyarsk would thus become the ninth Russian city to be included in the growing network of such Centers. According to the statistics, the services offered by the VSC's are in high demand in the Russian interior, while the establishment of these Centers clearly contributes to the growth of outbound tourist traffic.
Krasnoyarsk is one of the many Russian cities that are not exactly overwhelmed by the presence of foreign diplomatic missions. Thus, the capital of the province approximately the size of the entire European Union is serviced by consulates of only two countries - China and Kazakhstan. As a result, the area residents wishing to travel to Europe had to first undertake a trip to Moscow involving a four-hour flight just one way in order to obtain the necessary visa.
In 2010 the situation improved somewhat with the establishment of the Visa Service Center in Novosibirsk servicing the entire eastern Russia region. However, Novosibirsk is still not exactly close by - roughly a thousand kilometers away. Moreover, due to the absence of regularly scheduled direct flights between many Siberian cities one had to make a detour through Moscow in any case.
It is under these circumstances that VFS Global, the principal operator of the Visa Service Centers on the territory of Russian Federation, decided to step up the 'reigning in' of Siberia. The company's management has stated that the expansion would not stop at Krasnoyarsk. New Visa Service Centers are set to open in 2012 in Irkutsk, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, thus extending the network practically over the entire vast territory of the country.
All of VFS' visa centers run on the common software platform and adhere to the same safety standards, which are approved by governments of many countries. The company, which is owned by the Swiss multinational corporation Kuoni Group, obtains the right to operate Visa Service Centers by means of open tenders which are in turn held by diplomatic missions or foreign ministries of the countries concerned. VFS's successful 10 year track record in visa outsourcing (the company has been serving diplomatic missions in 52 countries already) must be its main competitive advantage. It is no surprise then that embassies of the following 16 countries have already concluded contracts with this international operator: the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Finland, Malta, Greece, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and the United Arab Emirates.
The customer service quality at the Krasnoyarsk VSC will remain at the same level as it has been at other cities with VFS presence. Thus, the waiting time to submit one's application to a live representative should not exceed 15 minutes (this would be particularly appreciated by those who tried to obtain a visa at any of the European consulates 5-10 years ago). All centers are equipped with photo booths, free photocopiers as well as wheelchair ramps and other amenities for ease of access of the Centers to people with disabilities.
As for the safety and personal data protection, the competence of VFS is substantiated by many reputable international certificates and standards, in particular by the ISO/IEC 27001 and Microsoft Security Awards. All of the VSC's in Russia, including the soon to be opened one in Krasnoyarsk, are included on the state Register of operators authorized to work with personal data.
Visa application through a Visa Service Center would cost one slightly more than applying directly at an embassy or a consulate. In addition to the fixed application fee (35 euros for a "Schengen" visa) the operator will charge its own service fee of 30-35 USD dollars in rouble equivalent, depending on the destination country. This amount would include the consultation service (prior to the submission of the visa application a specialist will check it for compliance with the requirements of the particular embassy), receipt, processing and shipment of the application package to Moscow and back. As VFS stresses, the decision itself whether to issue or to decline a visa is solely up to the discretion of a diplomatic mission in question. When compared to the cost of airline tickets or to the fees charged by travel agencies for intermediary services in obtaining a visa, this amount yields itself as quite a reasonable price to pay for the added comfort.
As statistics attest, the number of Russians traveling abroad on vacation or on business has been constantly growing. The representatives of foreign diplomatic missions attribute this growth not in the least to the development of the Visa Service Centers network while openly admitting that most embassies and consulates have simply ceased to cope with the influx of visa applications. Visa outsourcing has thus become not only a useful, but in many ways a necessary measure. Never the less, all diplomatic missions without exception have maintained the offer of a choice to travelers as to the application process: through a VSC or directly at the consulate.
The work of VFS Global is an example of a successful business practice in Russia, at the core of which is provision of services that are genuinely in demand. Over 2 million of processed applications last year alone serve as a proof of that. The strategic goal of VFS Global and of its Russian partner companies JSC "Navigator", "Interlink Service", "Intercom" and JSC "Intershtamp" is to achieve presence in all significant regions of Russia.
SOURCE VFS Global