VFS Global: Digitizing the visa outsourcing industry

Have you ever applied for a visa when planning an upcoming holiday or business trip? If so, you have likely crossed paths with EQT portfolio company VFS Global - the global market leader in visa process outsourcing services for governments and diplomatic missions. Since acquired by EQT in May 2016, VFS Global has accelerated its digital and Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) capabilities in mission of future-proofed growth for the long-run.

EQT VII portfolio company VFS Global (“VFS”) is a carve-out from EQT’s investment in the Swiss tourism company Kuoni Group that originally was comprised of three entities; GTA, GTS and VFS Global. VFS manages the administrative and non-judgmental tasks related to visa, passport, identity management and other citizen services for its client governments. Headquartered in Dubai, UAE, but with Swiss parentage, the company operates over 2,700 application centers in 141 countries on five continents, serving 61 governments around the world. Since inception in 2001, VFS Global has successfully processed over 180 million visa applications and more than 70 million biometric enrollments, as per 30 September 2018.

Improving user experience for millions of visa applicants

A key focus since EQT acquired VFS Global has been on crystalizing the company’s digital vision to make sure that it always stays at the forefront of technological transformation. EQT has therefore invested heavily in accelerating VFS’ digital processes, capabilities and proprietary software solutions to boost efficiency and improve customer satisfaction.

VFS Global’s websites are the starting point for many travels and attract over 100 million web sessions annually. As part of the company’s digital transformation, EQT has supported the process of revamping all the websites in an aim to make the overall visa application process smarter and more convenient for millions of users around the world. VFS Global has already launched 114 new websites for the UK Government on the new platform, which will soon be extended to other client governments, such as Germany, Australia, France, Czech Republic, to name a few.

Zubin Karkaria, CEO of VFS Global, comments: “Digital transformation is at the heart of our “Vision 2020 strategy” and this is the first step in that journey. This transformation will deliver an improved website design and new features and functionality to benefit applicants, our clients and enable online sales of visa services that are mandated by the client governments”.

“The new AI colleague can handle 10,000 enquiries per second – 24/7”

In September 2018, ViVA (“Virtual Visa Assistant”), the first-ever visa services chatbot, and VFS Global’s first digital employee, was successfully launched. Similar to any highly trained customer support executive, ViVA is a sophisticated chatbot powered by Artificial Intelligence, offering applicants round-the-clock support. The AI chatbot helps visa applicants with queries related to the visa application process, such as visa categories, rules and regulations, contact information, payment procedures, and optional services.

Zubin Karkaria, CEO of VFS Global continues: “ViVa is a digital differentiator that really sets VFS Global apart from the competition. The new AI “colleague” can handle 10,000 enquiries per second - 24/7, or 864 million in a day, significantly reducing the turnaround time of applicant queries. As it is based on machine learning and programmed to become more responsive over time, the greater the interaction with applicants, the smarter the chatbot gets. We are thankful for the continuous support from EQT and its Digital Team as they have been crucial in driving our company’s technological development and providing digital expertise throughout this ViVa’s development”.

Shifting from physical to digital

Another example of VFS Global’s earlier technological advancements is “Location Independent Document Processing”, or LIDProTM for short, allowing governments to process visas from a remote location, sometimes from another country altogether, saving significant time and resources for the local diplomatic mission.

Michael Bauer, Partner and Investment Advisor to EQT VII explains: “In its essence, LIDProTM digitizes the visa submission process by converting a physical paper application into an eDocket, allowing visa officers to begin assessing the application, even before the delivery of paper applications to the visa office. Using LIDPro™, eDockets can be assigned to any visa officer in any location worldwide. This facilitates management of large application volumes, by removing the requirement for government resources being physically present in source countries with high application volumes, effectively transforming the visa process into an almost entirely digital one.”