Most European nations outsource the visa and passport processing to a company called VFS Global, founded in Mumbai, India in 2001.
The convenience it offers is if you are getting visas from several countries, you don’t need to hop from one embassy to another, from one building to another, but only to VFS Global’s office, which is currently located on three floors at Ecoplaza building in Pasong Tamo Ave., Makati City.
There is something about that office that emits negative feelings. Every time I go there, my blood boils.
1. The first few times I went, cellphones were not allowed.
2. Two weeks ago, I left my cellphone in the car because I remembered the last time I went to VFS Global they made me leave my phone with Sgt. Peps. When I went back, cellphones were already allowed. People tinkered with their mobile phones while waiting for their names to be called.
3. The next time I went, I brought my iPad kasi the previous time, they already allowed gadgets. Oops bawal daw. They made me pay P75 for the locker. I followed their rule. When I went back in, the guard did not check my bag, did not ask if I have an iPad. I regretted paying P75.
4. They were asking me to pay P500 for sorting out my documents. I asked why? They said they could do it for me. I refused to pay 500. Sobrang money making strategy. I told the woman at the counter, that I paid thousands of pesos for the visa processing and it’s their job to sort out the documents. “Nagsasayang lang kayo ng mga papel kung anu-ano dagdag na requirements nyo na hindi naman kailangan.”
Mahaba pa ang nga talak-talak ko but I controlled myself or else they might keep my passport in their locker and not submit to the UK embassy for processing.
5. To get a text message from VFS advising you when your passport and visa are ready for pick-up, one must pay P150. I refused to pay. That is their obligation and service to inform customers. Dapat kasama na yang 150 pesos sa libu-libong singil nila.
5. I tripped on their uneven floors. I hurt my left knee and my face almost hit the glass door.
6. I went back last March 18 to claim my passport. The place was spewing with people. There must be three hundred in a small room.
My husband was there too. He didn’t have time to get an online appointment because he was leaving for Taipei and only have a week to renew his UK and Schengen visas. He was number 195. He finished at almost 7 pm.
While I only stayed for 1.5 hours making paypay because the body heat was too intense for the airconditioning units. No, I wasn’t able to get my passport. Wala pa daw.
7. Although I did not pay P150 text message fee, I received a message that my passport and visa were ready for pick-up. I collected Edmund’s and Oyen’s claim stubs, authorization letters and their IDs. I was the only one who went back to VFS to retrieve our passports, new and old.
Buti na lang hindi sila sumama. They no longer allowed applicants to immediately go inside. The guard made us fall in line outside their office near the stairs. Buti na lang there was a cold breeze that afternoon kung hindi nag migrane na ako. My husband said I should’ve asked Sgt. RN to fall in line, hay okay lang. There are things that I want to do myself. I am not comfortable letting travel agents to process my process. I always worry that my passport could get lost.
8. While I was queuing up inside the lobby, the guard told me to move to the next line and face a door. I didn’t know what he was trying to do.
9. A woman was already in line inside when a guard told her to go out and fall in line there. I tried to come to her rescue for questioning the guard’s diskarte. “Nasa loob na sya bakit kailangan nyo pa syang palabasin?”
No one bothered to question the rules imposed by the guards. Guards were left to themselves to try to organize VFS’s processes.
10. A family was asked to present their payment receipts. When it was my turn, the receptionist did not ask me to present anything. She just told me to log in my name.
11. When I entered the next room, the female security checked my bag. When she my phone charger, she said bawal daw. Not again. I didn’t want to pay P75 for a locker. I told her with a firnm voice “Ano’ng bawal?” And I ignored her.
12. There were many empty seats inside the main hall. Kawawa naman those people who were made to stand outside to wait, eh marami namang upuan dito sa loob.
13. I had to sit right in front of the counter where they call the numbers or names otherwise I would not be able to hear my name. Ang ingay but they don’t use a microphone.
14. The first time I used the female toilet, the cleaner was ranting about someone stealing the big roll of toilet paper. Last Monday, the first time I went, there was a big roll of toilet paper. I went in after a half-hour, the toilet paper dispenser was empty. Who took it? Kayo ha, please don’t steal toilet papers.
15. And I almost forgot Ecoplaza charges P100 parking fee even for just an hour.
16. VFS’s process changes every so often. I hope the embassies who contracted them should evaluate VFS’ process to make it easier, simpler, cheaper and faster for travellers to obtain visas to the respective countries. Attention: France, United Kingdom, Australia, Czech Republic, Finland, Norway, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, etc.
Actually, getting a visa to the US is the most economical. The US Embassy gives 10-year visa validity. You don’t have to keep on paying and renewing your visa each time you travel. They don’t make us pay for every visit. They don’t charge expedite fee to double the visa fees. They don’t charge an extra 500 to sort out documents.