Newly launched Emirati company VFS Tasheel has sparked concern from Egyptian recruitment companies due to its acquisition of between 60% and 70% of visas and work permits for Saudi Arabia.
VFS Tasheel manages the recruitment process for Egyptian nationals to work overseas and focuses particularly on obtaining Saudi visas. It entered the Egyptian market after a Saudi Arabian decision and has technically operated in the country since June.
Due to its take-over of the visa procurement industry in Egypt, VFS Tasheel now threatens with bankruptcy the approximately 1,200 Egyptian companies that have, until now, provided visa services for expatriate Egyptians. Nearly 60,000 Egyptian workers in Saudi Arabia also fear displacement, as they face potential uncertainty on visa renewal, said Hamdy Imam from the General Assembly of Division for Recruiting Employment Abroad (DREA).
“Actually the Egyptian companies are in unenviable situation,” Imam said. “In the beginning, VFS Tasheel was pretending to be authorized for visa iris recognition and fingerprints, but proved to be something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Expatriate Egyptians acquiring visas through VFS Tasheel say the company is overcharging for visas, frequently asking for as much as EGP 25 just to obtain a number to stand in queues for services. They also complained of frequent and often extensive delays in acquiring the visas.
The Saudi consul previously reassured companies saying that VFS Tasheel is not an alternative for companies recruiting Egyptians, and is not expected to harm any of them, said Minister for Manpower in an interview broadcast on several Egyptian media outlets.
The DERA has filed a complaint against the company, originally scheduled for consideration in August, but was postponed to 11 October. Imam threatened that if no positive action took place, DERA would take the issue to international courts instead.
Echoing Imam, Executive Manager of Al-Awida Recruitment Company Ahmed Atef told Daily News Egypt his company has suffered a plunge in visitor visas and Iqama services. Atef attributed this decrease to the acquisition of the Emirati Company.
“There are a considerable number of offices committed to manage the visitor visas and Iqama invitations as well, but most of them either suspended their operation or bankrupted,” he said.
Al-Awida is one of the survivors as its profits have depended more on recruiting Egyptians abroad rather than visa management. Atef said, however, they are worried that the Emirati company could acquire recruitment visas as well..
In response, the Saudi Embassy in Cairo issued a statement stressing that VFS Tasheel does not have the power to issue visas, but is only involved in receiving biometric features.
The embassy’s statement added that the company has “all necessary commercial permits to work in Egypt, and that its work does not contradict with companies recruiting Egyptians abroad”.
Daily News Egypt’s visit to the company showed crowded scenes outside the company’s offices, with all visitors requested by the company to remain outside the building. People were, however, allowed to line up, receiving numbers from the company’s security personnel who were letting them wait for their turn.
Expatriate workers using the company, who have now dubbed it VFS “ta’tel”, referring to the disruption in the visa process completing their visas, expressed resentment towards the company.
“We are furious it’s the second time I came to get my visa and they let me stand here outside the building waiting and at the end they said no visas yet,” a 40 year-old woman shouted condemning late delivery dates.
The woman, who requested anonymity, said that her previous experience saw her go to local visa procurement offices who delivered all relevant documents to her at home.
Meanwhile, Hossam Al-Hawary a young factory owner waiting to finish his Saudi business visa showed his frustration.
“The Saudi authorities has said this company will have 11 branches around the country, but we were startled when found only three branches are working, one in the Fifth Settlement in New Cairo, Agouza and Manial, but now Agouza is closed,” he said.
He expressed surprise at how only three branches could accommodate the number of Egyptian expatriates requiring Saudi visas.
A Facebook page has been launched, called “One million against VFS Tasheel”, to reflect Egyptian companies’ frustration and people’s dissatisfaction.
VFS Tasheel was unavailable to comment on the story.