Global mobility has become faster and easier as a direct result of globalisation, with international arrivals shooting up from 957.2 million in 2010 to nearly 1.5 billion in 2019. As a consequence, visa applications have increased exponentially in the last 10 years. Facing this huge rise in numbers, governments around the world have encountered challenges in managing visa applications in a timely manner, leading them to outsource the administrative aspects of the visa process. Outsourcing in this way has proved beneficial for governments and applicants alike, for multiple reasons.
Despite the efforts of centralised government visa departments and local consulates to manage the increase in the number of visa applications in the last decade, they have struggled to keep up with the volumes while maintaining good service quality and the security of their premises. To remedy this, many have chosen to outsource the administrative load of visa processes, allowing them to focus on their sovereign decision-making role.
How does visa outsourcing work?
The decision-making bodies, whether local consulates or centralised teams, retain the exclusive tasks of application examination, interviewing and final decision-making. The service provider plays no role in granting (or not) the visa to the applicant, instead handling:
- Information and appointment booking: through dedicated local websites.
- Applicant appointments: at centres designed to welcome a large number of applicants.
- Document collection and checks: the provider’s agents make sure that the applicant has submitted all the documents they wish to annex to their application, and if requested, assist the applicant to do so.
- Biometric data collection: photo capture, fingerprint scanning, and signature if applicable.
- Passport return: once an answer has been given by the decision-making body, the provider returns the passport to the applicant, onsite or through a secure courier service.
What are the advantages of visa and consular service outsourcing?
1. Higher volume of applications processed
While governments are restricted by public budgets, an external provider can make a larger number of staff available, proportional to the volume of applications received per location. Therefore, each decision-making team can receive a larger volume of applications, and their team can concentrate on the examination of the files solely and properly, increasing efficiency. In addition, outsourcers can provide additional flexibility in staffing, increasing staff numbers in hub centres during seasonal peaks or at times of crisis.
2. Increased service quality
Visa outsourcing has significantly enhanced customer experience by reducing wait lines, improving service level standards and providing comfortable premises adapted to welcoming hundreds of applicants at once. Service providers can offer additional services to enhance the overall experience, such as a premium lounge, appointments outside standard working hours, and mobile appointments at a location of the customer’s choice. Moreover, outsourced agents follow a streamlined process, allowing for reduced processing times per file, and application files with reduced margins of error. The optimised files enable decision-makers to focus on their core decision-making role, reducing the time required to review each application.
3. Expanded geographic presence
Governments are restricted to their consular premises when providing visa and consular services. An outsourcer, on the other hand, can open multiple locations to be geographically closer to regions with the highest number of applicants. For example, in addition to our visa application centre in Beijing, customers in China can head to 14 other TLScontact centres across the country to submit their applications to 4 different governments.
4. Increased security
Long wait lines outside consulates can pose a security threat, especially when hundreds of applicants line up around the premises without a full security check. Outsourcing partners can help manage crowds by moving them to a more appropriate location that is adapted to safely receiving high volumes of visitors. The work of the outsourcing partner is strictly regulated according to the government client’s rules, local data privacy laws, and international standards in terms of information security, data privacy and fraud prevention.
Outsourcing helps government and consular teams focus on their core decision-making role, reduce costs, and bring increased overall efficiency and value to their work. By delegating non-core tasks, governments allow for an improved process and experience for travellers and citizens across the globe.
 UN World Tourism Organization, Tourism Dashboard, International tourist arrivals