India Visa Outsource Company Debacle and Street Fights

The Indian Embassy’s move of visa providers has gone horribly wrong. I wrote about the nationwide move from terrible BLS to CKGS with cautious optimism that it hopefully would not get worse. Reader Sonia showed alerted me that the transition has been a disaster.

The San Francisco Examiner has published two articles, Outsourced Indian visa company angers crowd, then a week later, Fury, anger over Indian visa mess. The articles are worth reading for their tragicomic tale. The irony that India doesn’t know how to outsource is too rich, not that the US government does any better when outsourcing.

Some choice clips from The Examiner’s reports:

An employee burst out of the doors with hands outstretched, yelling “Listen to me, I’m only going to say this once: Police are coming, everybody has to get out”.

and

The previous company that handled visas, BLS, left behind a backlog of 5,000 unprocessed visas, [Cox & Kings’ Kamal] Singh said.

and

Police have been called out to the Bush Street location to break up two fights, one May 23 and another Tuesday, public safety officials said. Two people also called 911 on May 23 to report stolen passports.

And then when you start reading the comments, it really heats up.

For more, there are threads on forums such as immihelp and FlyerTalk, and the NY application center has a yelp page of solid 1-star reviews, such as Raj N’s:

WORST WORST WORST WORST WORST WORST WORST WORST
PHONES DO NOT WORK .
Why in the world VISA Services have to be outsourced?Adding to it , cannot reach a human at Indian consulate to answer questions related to form that does not sync with the pdf generated . ckgs phones are not working either .. tickets are booked for 14th ..
WHAT A SHAME ..

immihelp has a thread started June 2, a full 11 days after the transition, aptly titled, Did anybody successfully receive Indian visa from CKGS yet?

And this is the country that claims sometime in 2014 visa on arrival for 180 countries will be up and running.

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  • Jordan

    Very happy to have a 10 year visa that expires in 2022. Hopefully Visa On Arrival will be a reality by then and I won’t have to go through the process of applying by mail again.

    Love the irony of all this, but those poor people.

  • Aaron S

    I ordered a visa transfer (new passport) at the end of April and I am still waiting. No tracking on the new website, no communication at all. Good thing I haven’t had travel scheduled in the past month.

  • asar

    It seems people in US are more unruly than in India. The US embassy in India is a mess. Sometimes is takes about 3 months to get even a tourist visa and there is no communication in between. However, I have never heard of any fights breaking out in US embassies in India.

  • @asar – from the comments on articles and threads, the most vocal typically seem to be of Indian origin or heritage, for instance consular services related to Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards. If it were my own country doing this to me I would also be even more furious at the situation and seeming indifference from the actual embassy. Maybe they feel more empowered to protest that they would in India?

    When I write about visas I typically put in a disclaimer about the US visa process, which is arguably the worst in the world and I have gone through personally with family. That said, since US embassies are not mostly imposing, militarized compounds, I would not expect many protests by visa applicants. I am a US citizen and get nervous visiting one.

  • renostyle

    Last month I got a 10 year multi-entry visa from BLS in Washington DC. Many of the yelp and blog posts had me scared to death that the process would be a disaster. Everything went very smooth. Two keys to success: show up up on time (make an appointment) and bring ALL of your paperwork. It’s that simple.

  • Raj N

    Interesting to see one of my posts from other forums picked up here.

    I Recall my experience of renewing my Indian passport about 12 years ago ( When I was a Indian National ), and the process was smooth , walk in early morning , hand over passport and documents and collect the passport in the evening.

    Present day one would expect a lot to be streamlined. My trip was planned for 14th, I was planning on sending in my application 4 weeks in advance and then noticed the change in the outsourcing company . Then began all the stress.
    As i continue to fill the form , realized that form filled does not sync with the form generated- What would one do , call or write to consulate – guess what you never get a reply , and you only hear a repeated voice mail message .

    Next logical step , call CKGS – guess what – Phones are not working – Common it is the age of IP PBX and internet it only takes a few min to setup a new working number. Then you write to the CKGS as well and you dont get a reply in 24hrs, 36 hrs, 48 hrs

    All right , what next – go on line to ckgs site and try to setup an appointment – Guess what – Site is broken and you cannot set up appointment

    You need to go to India -Period . Need to submit documents , need clarity on certain things . Does one has to submit renunciation and hand over old passport before getting a visa on US Passport , who can clarify that ? Obviously Indian Consulate / CKGS – guess what , phones do not work , no answer / no email responses …
    What next

    Take a trip to CKGS in NYC – Mean bouncer shows off the key to the building and brags that only he can allow anyone into the building. These bouncers seem to have fun making fun of people who are stressed out and need answers . I tell him , I just need clarity.. Guess what – he tells he is the authority , he is the one i should talk to to get answers – What a joke ! someone standing in the street in front of the building is going to provide answers ? I head to the Consulate to get answers hoping I will ….
    The scene is rather pathetic – People are waiting outside the building to collect their passports. Cant Indian consulate provide a waiting room? There was one but none allowed , door were just locked .. These people applied under emergency category – A joke , how long does it take for one to produce false documents from India?

    I happened to get in and as the last person talked to the lady and got information i needed .. I could have saved a trip to NYC just to get information if only it was made available on the website , or the staff answered their phones ..
    As is , Indian officials are known to avoid work and laze around , the very little work they had processing and handling passports is now outsourced , so what in the world are these people doing ?

    Well , I am waiting for visas for me and family , if i get it in time , it is good , either way I think someone got a good bribe which is not new for India .

    Cox- For god sake setup a walk in section staffed with educated and knowledgeable people to answer questions , do not let your bouncers who are making jokes on women walking on the streets to give incomplete answers. Note that not all the people who come in to your building are trying to submit applications.

    Well all i can say is I am glad I am a US National! If not for family in India , I would never visit India.

    A friend of mine told me , get started , your porblems are just beginning …..

    I keep my calm and feel sorry for those effected and particularly those that are going through such trauma on a daily basis in India.

  • Kai

    I highly suggest that anyone thinking of traveling to India make plans two+ months out or go somewhere else.

    The bottom line is the CKGS offices are overwhelmed, not taking calls, and sending out only form emails. I dearly wish I had not sent my passport to these people, as I doubt I will ever see it again. Already, I have spent 600+ dollars trying to get my work visa for India, and it is just about too late to take my job. I am planning on going with a second opportunity and will have to break my current contract.

    The situation is so out of hand with these companies (BLS/CKGS etc…) that one has to wonder if India wants anyone to visit.

  • @Kai – that is prudent advice. Lots of other attractive countries to visit that properly manage and take responsibility for their consulate services. I got a Pakistan visa in April, that process was quite involved, but to their credit they called me when they had additional questions.

  • Ram

    @Asar and Rapid Travel Chai:
    Despite the pretense of being US citizens, your hurt patriotism, misplaced pride, and outright deceit is palpable. Your vitriol or snobbish put-down of NRIs is a bloody shame. As for sense of balance and morality, there is none. Just STFU!

  • @Ram – my only point in mentioning people of Indian origin was they the media reports focused on them and my commentary that I, too, would be furious if it were my own country doing this to me, rather than a country to which I had no connection.

  • bharat bhai patel

    The service fee is so high than the previous service provider.

    I do not understand even after charging $ 18.00, CKGS is not able to give a basic visa service to us whereas the previous service provider was able to give a reasonable service @ $4.00 irrespective of the consulate delays.

    Is the government or the consulate people making money with the difference of cost which is our hard earned money going for waste for such a pathetic and disrespectful services given by CKGS.

    Is anyone listening to this or is it just going down the drain and waiting for miracles to happen where illiterate people are handling the basic work and not able to do their own JOB correctly ?????????????

  • CKGS seems to have hired Agents to clean their mess.

    These agents are standing outside the CKGS office “SELLING” VISAs at a premium price and getting Visas for travel directly through the consulate.

    It is so evident that there is a HUGE commission which CKGS employees and the VISA agents are sharing and could be possible, the Hi-COM is also getting their share as it is a very common saying in India “Bribe is distributed equally in the corruption market.”

    Its a Disgrace to have CKGS in US….

  • Pawan

    Getting Visa to India 10-12 years back was extremely simple. Now these days, it is truly very complex and frustrated in case your luck is not very good. I will never visit India If I haven’t my family there due to difficulties in getting VISA.

    If there is option apply/provide VISA online even with much higher price will help keep people happy and more income for country.

  • ST

    I am an Indian born US citizen struggling for my Visa for the last One and a half months and have been running after CKGS and tried every possible resource to contact them but all in vain.

    Finally, I had to write to the below Indian Government Officials for their kind intervention to resolve my long pending case and by the Grace of God and with their extended support, I received my passport with a Visa recently from CKGS.

    psfs@mea.gov.in

    vikram.misri@gov.in

    eam@mea.gov.in

    amb.washington@mea.gov.in

    @Gen_VKSingh ( Twitter ) Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha). Former Chief of Army Staff, Indian Army.

    I would recommend each one of you to contact them for immediate support and share your grievances and serious concerns and they will surely help you to resolve the pending cases delayed by frustrating and incompetent CKGS.

    Thankfully, I never had this problem with the previous service provider when I applied it last year.

    Good luck !!

  • I am a resident of United Status and love to visit my friends and family in India but thanks to the New Highly efficient CKGS I am so scared even to apply for a tourist visa as so many of my friends have suffered and still suffering with the financial losses as well as facing mental trauma every day and every minute of their life.

    The need of this hour is to either Repair them or REPLACE them by a suitable service provider who can handle the services efficiently or let the Consulate take the onus to ensure all services rendered to us are correct and well-ordered. Even after paying $18 as service fee to CKGS, we are treated so badly and with so much misbehavior and ill-treatment.

    With a little hope, I have applied for a tourist 6-month visa with CKGS on 3rd of July but till date there is no news whether they have processed or received the visa back as neither their local phones are responding not their stupid call center in India knows about it. The website does not show a correct image of the current situation of the submitted applications.

    Finally, after all effort gone in the drain and losing all hope from CKGS, I wrote to the below people to help people of United States who wish to visit their Country for good.

    I appreciate and respect the quick level of response from them and finally someone from the consulate took the initiative to find my application and get it processed for visa and I am happy to get my Visa.

    Sujatha Singh : psfs@mea.gov.in

    Navtej Singh Sarna : asio@mea.gov.in

    PMO: vikram.misri@gov.in

    Sushma Swaraj : eam@mea.gov.in

    S. Jaishankar : amb.washington@mea.gov.in

    Gen (Retd.) V K Singh : @Gen_VKSingh (Twitter )

    Trust, I am relieved at least the honorable ministers of my home country are still on their toes to help and support their fellow people. God Help the Indian Consulate in united States.