VFS, a private company that serves as an intermediary for government agencies and their customers, has endeared itself to many embassies across the world through their service as Visa Application Centers.
As a frequent traveller, I am no stranger to this company. I have been served almost 30 times and my general verdict of their services would be a favourable one.
Due to the fanaticism for travelling, visa applicants in Ghana are ever ready to pay any amount of fees charged by embassies or the VFS, and this has prompted a situation where the VFS charges exorbitant fees to exploit the massive demand. These high fees are of course unfair. They suffocate applicants, but many remain quiet and afraid to ask questions due to fears of being denied visas.
One should however not be afraid of lodging a complaint and being banned, for, with over 300 countries and territories in the world, there are many more alternatives. The focus should be on fairness. On probity and accountability.
The official fee for a South African visa is GHS 95.50 ($22), but the VFS charges GHS 315 ($73) as service fees. This represents more than a 300% increase of the official visa fees, which is alarming. One should note that the only job the VFS does is to receive visa applications, forward them to the South Africa High Commission, and collect them for the applicants once a decision is made.
Even for European countries like Italy, Denmark and Norway, where VFS also provides booking of appointments for visa interviews, they only charge GHS 147 ($34) as a service fee.
I am tempted to believe that there is someone at the South Africa High Commission who is taking commissions on the ridiculous charges of the VFS. Or maybe the South African Department of Home Affairs is receiving commissions on these charges? If this happens to be the case, why are they not charging such as visa fees instead? If no one is taking commissions on these charges, why is the South Africa High Commission not concerned with the status quo?
One of the reasons listed below may be true and we expect the South Africa High Commission or the South Africa Department of Home Affairs to tell us which of them is:
Someone at the embassy/Home Affairs is receiving commission on each applicant
The Embassy/Home Affairs is not bothered about how much VFS charges
Part of the payment goes to the embassy as visa fees since there has been no major increment in visa fees for years (this would be a deceptive way of telling us that the visa fee is cheap)
VFS is taking advantage of the Ghanaian visa applicant
There is someone hidden somewhere who is receiving a commission on each applicant.
For the sake of trust and transparency, it is important that we get clarity on these issues.