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The Ministry of External Affairs signed an agreement for the second phase of the Passport Seva Programme (PSP-V2.0) with Tata Consultancy Services, for opening of a Seva Kendra in every Lok Sabha constituency -- where there is no Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) or Post Office Passport Seva Kendra (POPSK).
As on date 93 PSKs, 428 POPSKs and 36 Passport Offices are operational. The Programme has recently been connected to more than 176 Indian Missions/Posts through Global Passport Seva Programme (GPSP), providing "seamless" delivery of passport services to the Indian diaspora, the ministry has said. The PSP-V2.0 is a continuation and enhancement of PSP-V1.0, an e-Governance instrument, which introduced "unprecedented transformation" in delivery of passport related services to citizens, the ministry added.
The Ministry of External Affairs signed an agreement for the second phase of the Passport Seva Programme. | Pixabay
The key elements of PSP-V2.0 are setting up of a state-of-art digital ecosystem, process overhauling and integration among various stakeholders and databases, improving citizen interface, upgrading technology, adopting best practices and strengthening data security. Security aspects, including strategic assets such as data centres, database and the application software will be owned by the government. There would be strict access controls across the system, incorporating biometrics.
As on date 93 PSKs, 428 POPSKs and 36 Passport Offices are operational. | Wikimedia Commons
On the digital front, the programme envisages a Data Centre, Disaster Recovery Centre and Government Secure Repository networked to all PSKs/POPSKs, Passport Offices and also to Indian Missions/Posts abroad, an electronic file system for passport processing running across the passport issuance ecosystem and 24x7x365 monitoring and supervision through state-of-art Network Operation Centre (NOC) and Security Operation Centre (SOC). According to the ministry, the Passport Seva Programme would be embarking on technology upgrade with the use of biometrics, artificial intelligence, advance data analytics, chat-bot, auto-response, natural language processing, cloud enablement. "The issuance of e-Passports for enhanced customer satisfaction, increased security and next level of citizen experience will also be unveiled in the upgraded PSP-V2.0." (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: Passport, PSK, Governance, India, Passport Seva Kendra,
The travel and tourism industry, unarguably, is one of the most affected sectors since the onset of COVID-19. With country borders sealed, cities brought to a standstill and all transportation stationary, it is difficult to imagine the recovery trajectory of travel. Industry experts suggest that while travel will eventually recover in stages, we should expect a shift in both travel norms and traveller behaviour. Travel news is on hold but your plans can still be made for later.
VFS Global addresses some common questions on every traveller’s mind and sharing guidelines to assuage their concerns and help navigate their holiday plans once international borders open again.
What happens to passports submitted before services were suspended?
Following the national lockdown in India, Visa Application Centres had to shut down operations in adherence to directives from central and local authorities and diplomatic missions. When the Visa Application Centres are allowed to re-open, VFS Global will be able to evaluate at which stage of assessment each application is and resume the applicant return process accordingly.
Will Visa Application Centres open for appointments once the national lockdown lifts?
Visa Application Centres in any city/country operate according to the directives of the central and local authorities and the diplomatic mission/the country being applied to. In some cases, even if central/local authorities lift the lockdown, the country you are applying to may not be accepting visa applications. In this scenario, an open Visa Application Centre might not serve your purpose. Make sure you’re checking regulations by not only your government, but also that of the country you plan to visit.
What are health and safety precautions implemented at the centres?
As per guidelines prescribed by the World Health Organization, as well as local authorities, both customers and employees at Visa Application Centres will be subject to body temperature checks, face masks and gloves — for their own protection and that of others. Centres are also maintaining preventive measures such as disinfecting high-contact surfaces, use of hand sanitizers, and social distancing practices.
When services resume, can one avoid visiting a Visa Application Centre as a social distancing precaution?
Once services resume, customers who wish to avoid visiting public places can also use optional services, such as the Visa At Your Doorstep service for application submission — with this service, trained VFS Global staff will visit the customer’s location of choice (home, office, etc.) to complete the visa application submission process and/or biometric enrolment if needed, while maintaining necessary health precautions. In India, this service is available for select destination countries only, and will resume after lockdown subject to approvals from the concerned embassy/consulate.
Customers using regular services as well are encouraged to opt for courier services to get their passports back (once the centres re-open), to avoid crowding as a precautionary measure.
Would we be required to submit medical history for visa applications?
Medical reports are usually a part of required documentation in some visa applications, though they may or may not be related to COVID-19. However, as governments may beef up health screening measures going forward, make sure you’ve carefully been through the updated document checklist requirements for the country you’re visiting, in case of any medical and vaccination histories are required as part of your visa application.
What about work and residency permits?
Although most governments have currently suspended travel visa services, customers may still be able to apply for other categories such as long-stay visas or residence permits. However, this remains limited to only a few countries. Several countries have put in place border control measures, temporarily disallowing certain non-essential travelers to submit visa applications. Nevertheless, if you already hold a valid work or residence permit, you may still be able to enter some countries, despite entry restrictions.
What happens to a valid visa, if the country in question has restricted/banned travel?
Advisories for various countries differ with regards to who can enter, irrespective of whether they hold a valid visa or not. Some countries have imposed border control measures that only allow citizens, residents, or specific permit holders to enter the country, and disallow other non-essential travellers even if they hold a valid visa.
Citizens who are yet to travel and whose existing visa has expired or is expiring soon can re-apply for a fresh visa when operations resume. Those who had already travelled before lockdown to a foreign country and whose visas are due to expire soon, are urged to reach out to the concerned embassy/consulate for assistance.
Given the fluid ongoing scenarios and threads of misinformation, being armed with the correct data about your travel destination, as well your own country, are paramount before you set out on your next journey. In order to aid customer queries and concerns, VFS Global has set up a dedicated webpage for COVID-19 customer advisories that is updated daily and covers visa application processes for the 64 governments they serve worldwide. (IANS)
If you are one of the lucky ones heading away on an amazing adventure to Europe, you arent the only one. An increasing number of Indians are travelling to beautiful Europe, thanks to the new guidelines of Schengen visa.
A Schengen visa is undeniably one of the most imperative entry keys to Europe. Obtaining a Schengen visa by any of the 26 Schengen area member countries consents a visa holder to enter, travel within, and egress the Schengen territory from any of the member countries.
Number of Schengen visa applications from India is among the highest in the world and Spain is one of the preferred Schengen destinations which witness a huge number of influxes from India.
One of the probable reasons behind this immense footfall is India not being amongst the visa-exempt nations for the Schengen.
Shikhar Aggarwal, JMD, BLS International writes some common things to consider while applying for a Schengen visa from India:
1. As per the recent changes in the Schengen visa rules, applicants can now apply for the visa in 6 months advance, this allows you to plan your trip in advance.
2. Know your port of entry and the visiting nation in the Schengen territory. Accordingly, you have to apply for a visa to the embassy of the respective country.
3. Knowing your purpose of visit is another point of consideration for Schengen visa applicants. This helps you know which visa category you are entitled for. Once your purpose of visiting tallies your support, you are permitted to apply for Schengen or National visa.
4. Next comes in; the number of entries. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of European Schengen visa is the number of entries you are granted. Usually, there is single-entry, double-entry, or multiple-entry visa categories that one can apply as per the eligibility.
5. Attend the appointment as per scheduled slot carrying all the documents and required fees.
6. All applicants for the visa must submit their biometrics, which is obligatory if not given in last 59 months.
7. The processing time of Schengen visa is usually within 15 working days. However, under certain scenarios, it may take 30-60 days. The final decision to approve/delay/reject an application is at the discretion of the embassy.
Although preparing for a holiday is not without its challenges, to make sure you get to your destination smoothly with as little stress as possible, visa services agencies are offering a plethora of services. They are designed to suit the evolving requirements of the new-age traveller, and to make the visa application process more convenient, exclusive, personalised, time saving and hassle-free. (IANS)
International carrier KLM Royal Dutch Airlines did a recent survey to figure our how travellers are changing the way they search, book and travel. From booking with the aid of voice technology and sustainable alternatives such as rail services, to facial recognition technology at security its an ever changing world of travel out there.
The surveys shows that half of Gen Z and millennials consider how ‘Instagrammable’ their destination will be when booking. How many “likes” will it generate? The guarantee of taking beautiful holiday snaps is a prerequisite for 25.8 percent of them. The photos have to be authentic and taken by them personally.
Travellers increasingly use voice technology to navigate
Many people spend hours consulting search engines and browsing websites for their ideal travel destination. “Smart speakers” are assisting them on their quest, with more and more travellers finding their ideal destination and suitable air tickets using voice technology. KLM’s booking service, which is often consulted with the aid of Google Assistant, is attracting 10 percent more users every month.
Travel inspiration on social media comes from friends and family
Instagram is expected to keep growing as a significant source of travel inspiration. The role of influencers and celebrities as a source of holiday inspiration is declining more and more (14.5 percent). Also, more than 50 percent of travellers don’t trust photos of holiday destinations shared by influencers. Travellers mainly look at posts from friends and family (65.3 percent) or click on hashtags to seek inspiration from strangers (45.9 percent).
Combining air and train travel will become more popular
Sustainability is important and travellers are taking it into account when booking. This is why travel operators are joining forces wherever possible to offer rail tickets for shorter distances as an alternative to flying. KLM will add more options to its website to plan short distances by train. The guiding principle being that the combination of air and rail travel can be planned and booked easily.
Are you compensating for CO2 emissions?
More and more passengers are compensating for their share of carbon emissions. A survey* commissioned by KLM revealed that 38.8 percent of travellers plan to compensate for CO2 emissions next year.
Your face is your passport
Queues will be shorter at the airport thanks to facial recognition technology. Earlier this year, KLM conducted tests where passengers passed through checkpoints at security, lounges and boarding by showing a selfie in the KLM App on their phones, instead of presenting their passports. The KLM App shows passengers at which airport this technology may be used. More and more passengers will encounter this technology in 2020 when new tests begin. Naturally, it is up to the passenger to decide whether they want to try this digital innovation or not.
AI to shorten waiting times in unforeseen circumstances
Unforeseen circumstances, such as thunderstorms, can lead to flight delays. Artificial Intelligence (AI) helps reduce inconvenience to passengers by rapidly calculating how best to deploy available crews and aircraft. This will further improve flight punctuality in 2020.
Even more luxury and relaxation at the airport
All sorts of innovations will further improve the ways travellers spend their time at the airport. Transfer passengers will find sleeping pods in KLM’s new non-Schengen Crown Lounge or they can enjoy a luxury dinner at Restaurant Blue, with dishes created by Michelin-starred chef Joris Bijdendijk.
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Mobile telephone off or at home
Travellers increasingly prefer to stay off their mobile phone while on holiday, or at least to use it less. On the other hand, they can’t go without a phone altogether. Around 50 percent of passengers would prefer to use their phones as little as possible on holiday, but also indicate that this is not always possible. Almost a third of passengers would like to travel without a phone, but are afraid they will find this impossible. (IANS)