imho

Concerned Students & Workers Call For Visa Application Centre To Resume Operations

The prolonged closure of the VFS Visa Application Centre causes applicants to feel powerless whilst overseas university and employment start dates sharply approach.

Cover image via Asyraf Hamzah/New Straits Times & Change.org

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Concerned students and workers across Malaysia are gravely dissatisfied with the prolonged closure of the one and only VFS Visa Application Centre (VFS), located inside the Wisma MCA building

A petition was launched on the 30 June 2021 and has since gathered more than 1,000 people demanding the centre to swiftly resume normal operations before the university or employment start dates approach.

VFS (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, an outsourcing company that manages visa applications for governments across the world, had since 1 June 2021 posted on its website informing that it will be remained closed due to local Government lockdown restrictions until further notice.

In light of the visa centre's further closure that extends beyond 28 June 2021, some 50 affected visa applicants hailing from diverse backgrounds, ages, genders, ethnicities, and expertise came together virtually to form an advocacy alliance through the Facebook Messenger group chat function.

Image via Change.org

The group claims to represent all affected visa applicants and is demanding VFS to swiftly resume normal operations

The spokesperson expresses profound concerns that further closure of VFS will be a catastrophe as the mounting backlog might cause undesirable delays for applicants to receive visa approvals on time. The group projected that the peak time for visa application would range from July til October; students are expected to apply for their September enrolment while workers rush to start work for the new fiscal year. Separately, the spokesperson emphasises that the demand to re-open VFS should also be met with stringent infection prevention measures to ensure the health and safety of all.

Yu Wen Ung, an affected student said, "Visa office closures during prime time for applications have been disappointing. This circumstance could have been better handled, considering we've been battling COVID-19 for a year."

"Visa applications in 2021 have been full of obstacles every step of the way, from severely delayed processing times and difficulty submitting documents and passports to non-operational visa centres. I'm very worried about not being able to attend my classes in time, also imagine how nerve-wracking it is not being able to make any travel plans because of the uncertainty involved," said James Tan, another affected student.

Qamarina Azman, an affected student who has had her first and second years of study disrupted due to university staff on strike, said, "My course is starting in September, and I am hoping to be back in the UK early to complete my isolation before class commences. If I can't get my visa done on time, it leaves me no choice but to defer for another year which is not ideal after suffering from episodes of interrupted studies for the past years which I am now receiving professional help for my mental health. I'm paying GBP20,000 (approx. RM114,700.94) for university fees and it's only fair that students get the full contact hours."

Cassey Loh, a recent divorcee and mother of two schooling age boys, said, "I'm a student and also have a job at the frontline, I need to return to the UK by August 2021. With my current life circumstances, I need to bring my boys with me. I need to apply dependant visa for them."

Habibu Zaid, an affected Canadian Work Visa applicant who works offshore in the oil and gas industry said, "If I don't get my passport by mid-July, I will be raising 'white flag' as I've lost my job this year. Getting back my passport with work visa approval is more important than any other thing. I'm eager to start working soon."

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via Asyraf Hamzah/New Straits Times

Fact sheet:

1. Who is affected
Malaysians and Non-Malaysians
– Employees moving for work
– Students (UK university intakes begin in September 2021. Students need to arrive in the UK by August for quarantine reasons)
– Dependents
– Partners
– Family members

2. Why VFS needs to reopen and is essential
A visa is an official document that allows the bearer to legally enter a foreign country. The visa is usually stamped or glued into the bearer's passport. There are several different types of visas, each of which afford the bearer different rights in the host country.

VFS Global Visa Application Centre processes visas for the following countries, including but not limited to:
– UK
– Australia
– New Zealand
– Canada
– Singapore
– Japan
– Schengen visa (Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland)

Therefore, VFS Global Visa Application Centre is an organisation that must be allowed to operate under a lockdown/Movement Control Order (MCO) as it is an 'essential service' per the guidelines released by the National Security Council (MKN).

EMCO introduced by the Government in certain areas of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur from 3 July to 16 July 2021 does not impact the reopening of VFS as VFS is not located in an EMCO area.

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