Customer Experience, Insights

Improving consular services through outsourcing 


4 min to read

Improving consular services through outsourcing 

While a large number of governments have opted to outsource the administrative aspects of the visa application process, many embassies and consulates continue to manage consular services directly. This is increasingly challenging in a world where 281 million people live outside their native countries and where the diaspora numbers of certain countries exceed 100,000 or even 1,000,000. Embracing outsourced consular services is a proven, cost-efficient way of attending to the needs of these citizens, bringing advantages of scalability, transparency, and quality of service at minimal additional cost. 

The activities that embassies and consulates perform to support overseas citizens and visa applicants are a mixture of highly sensitive, diplomatically critical activities and routine, but nonetheless important, administrative work. Consular staff may be legalising a birth certificate one day and then travelling to the far side of their host country the next to assist a compatriot who has been detained. 

While there used to be a greater distinction between diplomats’ and consular staff’s work, that line has become increasingly blurred over the past two decades. According to the latest data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 281 million migrants are living in a country different from their birth, while there are also around 150 million visa applications submitted each year. Consular staff are, therefore, expected to manage the needs of almost half a billion people annually, but most governments have approached servicing the needs of these two cohorts very differently. 

Visa application outsourcing: a proven model 

Governments started outsourcing the administrative, nonjudgmental tasks associated with the visa application process in 2001. Since then, the industry has grown exponentially as more governments seek to reap the benefits of outsourcing. Every single Schengen country has now outsourced the visa application process in some part of the world, while countries like Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America have all outsourced visa application services at scale worldwide. 

Around one-third of global visa applications are now submitted through a visa application outsourcing company like TLScontact. This offers a wide range of benefits to governments, as outsourcers handle all customer interactions and basic administrative tasks, leaving government visa departments to focus on their sovereign decision-making role.

Read our article Improving visa processes: how outsourcing benefits governments and applicants 

Through the ‘user-pays’ model used in most visa application outsourcing contracts, governments can get all these benefits at zero cost as the service is funded by a modest service fee levied on the visa applicant. 

The benefits of outsourcing consular services 

Despite the proven advantages of visa outsourcing, the picture for consular services is quite different.  

Consular services include passport applications, document legalisation, national ID card applications, and birth, marriage and death registrations. But in addition to these basic administrative services, consular staff are also responsible for supporting their overseas citizens in times of need. This can be when they have been detained or severely injured, for example, or in the event of a natural disaster or other type of emergency situation. 

Clearly, consular services have the same delineation between ‘sovereign tasks’ that can only be performed by competent consular or diplomatic personnel and ‘administrative tasks’ that could be outsourced to a trusted partner, as with the visa application process.  

However, we find that this is rarely the case.  

While countries have outsourced some consular services, governments do not generally approach consular services outsourcing with the same structure as they do visa application outsourcing. Arguably, India is the most advanced country in this area, outsourcing a wider variety of administrative consular service tasks.  

A golden opportunity for governments

In a world where an increasing number of people live outside the country they were born in, but still need and expect a certain level of service from their native country, governments have a golden opportunity to rethink the way that they deliver consular services to their citizens.  

By adopting a similar model as for visa applications, governments can benefit from the same structure, scalability, transparency, and high quality of service in consular services provision as they currently experience for visa applications. Furthermore, this doesn’t have to mean huge additional expense, as a user-pays funding model can be used to fund the service at zero cost to the government. 

By working with a trusted consular services partner such as TLScontact, governments can have consular staff focus on their sovereign tasks while outsourcing all administrative tasks. This will allow them to spend more time on complex situations, assisting their compatriots rather than managing crowds at an embassy, answering scores of telephone calls each day or sifting through piles of paper.  

The flexibility and scalability of outsourcing consular services can also significantly benefit overseas citizens. A trusted consular services partner can increase access to consular services by establishing more service centres, providing telephone services for longer working hours, and scaling up quickly to support consular staff in an emergency. 

The role of a trusted consular services partner 

At TLScontact, we have considerable experience in supporting governments in the delivery of consular services.  

For example, in our work with France, we have supported French nationals and consulates in times of emergency in places as diverse as Hong Kong and Egypt by rapidly setting up websites to provide information and contact centres to offer real-time information. We have also established face-to-face contact centres at short notice to facilitate vaccination programmes, working alongside consular staff and medical professionals. 

Meanwhile, our work with Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK supports more routine consular services, such as handling official document legalisation and passport applications and renewals, freeing up consular personnel to focus on their sovereign tasks for an ever-expanding overseas population. 

While governments may initially be reticent to adopt a user-pays funding model, thereby charging their citizens to access consular services, research from Kellogg Northwestern indicates that when people have already decided to access a service, their willingness to pay for better quality is high.  

With the right consular services offering and pricing strategy, outsourcing the administrative aspects of consular services to a trusted partner will reflect positively on a government, even if their citizens pay a modest fee to access it. 

Contact us at TLScontact to discuss how we can help transform your consular services provision to benefit your overseas citizens and consular services departments. 

Article written by
Simon Peachey, Chief Sales Officer 

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