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Consular: Ace the Indian Visa Application

June 2024
Consular: Ace the Indian Visa Application

Who amongst us has not wrangled with tedious and confusing visa and OCI applications? AMIT KUMAR SHARMA, the Head of Americas for VFS Global, the company that the Government of India has partnered with to process visa applications and other consular services, answers questions about common issues and errors on these applications and how to avoid them.

What are the most common complaints of Indian visa applicants?

1. The most common complaints we receive from the applicants relate to error messages they receive while booking an appointment to come in person to the office. During this process, our website shares adequate prompts to assist you with most error messages you may encounter. At certain times, due to very high site traffic, you may need to wait a while and retry. If the error persists, applicants can contact our dedicated helpline teams to seek assistance (phone numbers provided later in the article).

2. Confusion regarding the necessary documents, especially when it comes to the renunciation of Indian citizenship and obtaining the OCI. For example, a common question is whether an Indian passport with a stamp indicating “Passport Cancelled” is sufficient or a formal renunciation certificate is needed. We have a detailed FAQ document on the website updated with the responses to each unique query we receive.

3. Some applicants have reported difficulties in understanding the difference between a surrender certificate and a renunciation certificate.

a. A Renunciation Certificate is issued to applicants who have not lost their most recent/last-held Indian passport and are applying for renunciation.

b. A Surrender Certificate is issued to the applicants who have lost the last-held Indian passport.

4. Some others call us to complain about the various documents required in physical form for certain processes. When it comes to international travel and entering a foreign country, the precise identification of applicants is highly regulated by governments. They have specific requirements that ensure the sanctity of the process, and it is imperative to follow them in visa applications. We offer assistance at all our application centers through our staff who can provide form-filling and document review services, among other things.

5. Another major issue we encounter is when applicants do not fill in their names correctly. While completing the online government form, the applicant must ensure that their name matches the current passport. If the name does not match the current passport, it’s considered an error unless the applicant is undergoing a name change. In such instances, the applicant must update the government form to ensure that the name on the current passport aligns with the name on the form.

6. Any changes in the personal particulars must be part of the service selection. For example, in a passport renewal case, if an applicant has changes in things like address or marital status, the applicant must choose “Change in personal particulars” along with the main reason for the renewal. When completing the form on the passport government website, it’s essential to indicate any changes in personal details by selecting the corresponding tick box. This selection provides clarity on the modifications the applicant is requesting.

What are the most common errors seen in visa applications? And how do you suggest those can be remedied?

We witness numerous easily avoidable mistakes made by visa applicants. The following are the five most common ones.

Information on the form not matching with official documents: Incorrect details in the visa application form—such as the name, passport number, or date of birth not appearing precisely as it is in the passport. It is surprising how many people provide information that is inconsistent with their official documents that serve as proof of identity.

Photos not in proper format: A common error observed during the visa application is that the photos submitted are not in the prescribed format. To learn more about photo-related specifications, please visit our website, www.vfsglobal.com, for details on proper format requirements.

Check the country-specific checklist: Different countries have different documentation requirements. A destination-specific list is available on the VFS Global information pages, enlisting all the documents required for a visa application to that particular country. Even a single missing document could render the application incomplete. Submitting ineligible documents is also a common error.

What tips and timelines would you share for prospective visa applicants?

Always apply for travel documents, including a visa, well before the intended travel date. Keep in mind that travel documents tend to take longer to process during the peak travel season. Every country has a different turnaround time for processing visa applications. Most countries accept applications up to 90 days before the date of travel, and applying for a visa well in advance allows enough time to deal with any unforeseen delays.

What tips and timelines would you have for OCI applicants?

To apply for OCI, the former Indian national must provide a Certificate of Renunciation of Indian Citizenship. If you do not have the Renunciation Certificate, please apply for it first. Apply for OCI only after getting the renunciation certificate. We advise applicants to take time to read the procedure and prepare well in advance. Ensure all the processes are followed and the required details are filled in accurately. Submit the documents in the format specified in the application.

According to the government of India, the average processing time for a new OCI application (based on Indian origin) is 4 to 5 weeks from the date of registration in the Consulate; whereas, for re-issuance/updating of OCI Cards, it is 5 to 6 weeks. This is subject to getting the necessary clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

What help/resources are available for seniors and others who may not be computer savvy?

We have 24*7 email assistance available for the applicants to seek help. An individual can also call our dedicated helpline number and ask for help.
Besides this, any senior citizen can walk into the relevant Visa Application Centre (VAC) and ask for an associate’s help.

The applicant may call us Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm EST, for assistance with completing the application.
• Passport, Renunciation, GEP & PCC : +1 800 320 9625

• OCI and Visa Services: +1 800 320 9693

• The web form to write to us is: https://vfs.mioot.com/forms/In/USA/PS/

While in-person submissions are permitted from 9 am to 11 am, we ensure that appointments will be available for applicants within 48 working hours from the time of request.

Easier processes have been a long-term demand for travel documents. How are you addressing the same?

In the U.S., we also facilitate Consular Camps with the support of local organizations and associations to bring consular services closer to the Indian diaspora community. To organize a Consular Camp, the organization needs to contact the local Indian mission/post and mutually agree upon a date. This information will be relayed to the VFS local manager, who oversees logistics, staff travel arrangements, website updates, appointments, and other related tasks.

Our goal is to create a seamless, efficient, and compassionate visa application experience where technology and human expertise work in tandem to serve our customers effectively.

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