Monday, 24 Jun, 2024

National

"I paid Tk50,000 for VFS appointment"

Staff Correspondent  | banglanews24.com
Update: 2024-05-21 13:21:10

Mashfiqur Rahman Mukul, in his Dhaka residence, teaches the Italian language to those who want to go to Italy from Bangladesh and later apply for an Italian visa.

Mukul shared his frustrating experiences with VFS Global, the company handling the visa process, with Banglanews. 

He explained that many of his clients learned the Italian language from his institute and received a work permit (Nulla Osta) from Italy, after which they need to apply for a visa. However, securing an appointment for the visa application is extremely difficult.

Mukul mentioned that he had to pay Tk 50,000 to secure an appointment for his brother. Thousands of people face similar issues daily, he added.

Like Mukul, hundreds of people pay exorbitant fees daily to obtain VFS serials and go abroad.

On May 13, at the VFS Global office located in Nafi Tower, Gulshan-1, Dhaka, many visa aspirants were seen waiting to get their passports back. 

Conversations with many of them revealed their struggles. Besides, numerous brokers were present there.

VFS Global employs both local and international staff. On November 18, 2021, the Italian Embassy in Bangladesh partnered with VFS Global to handle all services, including visa issuance, for a fixed fee. VFS Global operates in 147 countries, including Bangladesh, with offices in Dhaka, Chittagong, and Sylhet. However, only premium services are available in Chittagong and Sylhet, while both premium and general services are offered in Dhaka.

VFS Global charges between Tk19,720 and Tk22,000 per person for visa processing. According to the rules, visa applicants must book appointments on VFS Global's website for document submission and interviews. While these appointments were readily available until 2022, an artificial scarcity was created in early 2023 due to collusion between the black market and VFS. Consequently, visa applicants struggled to secure appointments online. However, VFS announces that appointments for the next month open on the 25th of every month; slots are filled within the first three minutes when they open at 9 AM.

Visa applicants alleged that brokers can secure appointments overnight for fees ranging from Tk50,000 to Tk1,00,000 bypassing the need for OTPs or additional steps. Conversely, it will take 9 minutes to an hour to receive the OTP after applying online independently.

Very embarrassing situation

Masud Rana, a visa applicant from Shariatpur, expressed his frustration, saying, "We are in a very embarrassing situation. It's been seven or eight months since we submitted our applications. We have wives, parents, and uncertainty."

When asked about the current status, he said, "The authorities say it is in processing. They will notify us when it's ready, but there's no guarantee of when that will be."

Mamunur Rashid, a resident of Rupganj, Narayanganj, shared a similar plight. He has been waiting almost four months, with his appointment due within a month. Despite mailing VFS Global on March 1, he has not received any updates.

Shaheen Khan, from Singair, Manikganj, a Saudi expatriate, recounted his ordeal. He applied through a friend in Italy and submitted his documents on August 8 last year. He is still to receive his visa or get his passport back. With his Saudi Arabia visa expiring on the 6th of next month, he fears he won't be able to return to Saudi Arabia if he doesn't get his passport back in time.

He lamented, "I am a successful expatriate with a car in Saudi Arabia. I haven't sold it yet. I've come here many times, but there's no response. They say they'll notify me when it's ready. Allah knows when that will be. I won't be able to return to Saudi Arabia if I don't get my passport by the 6th of next month."

What VFS says

When asked about these complaints, Shantanu Bhattacharya, head of VFS Global Bangladesh, said, "Visa issuance is not in our hands. The embassy handles visa issuance. We only collect applications. The decision to grant a visa is entirely up to the embassy. Only the embassy can explain the delays. I should not comment on this."

BDST: 1321 HRS, MAY 21, 2024
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