Opening Visa Application Centers in Iran
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Iranians who apply for any kind of visas need to give biometrics. Visa Application Centers (VAC) or Visa Support Centers normally conduct biometric tests. Because there aren’t any VACs in Iran, Iranians have to travel abroad to give their biometrics. Such travels are problematic for the applicants, especially those of older age or those suffering from certain diseases that limit their mobility. It can also cause hardship for Canadian citizens whose families want to travel to Canada from Iran. Consequently, we request opening five VACs in Iran to address these issues and make the visa application process more convenient for the applicants.
The government of Canada has outsourced collecting the Biometrics to VFS Global, which opens and manages Visa Application Centers or Visa Support Centers for this purpose. VACs also,
- Answers questions in local languages and make sure that applications are complete,
- Transmits application documents and passports to the visa office securely,
- Returns passport and decision documents securely,
- Offers a tracking service,
- Plans interviews and provide application photographs and photocopies for a fee, and
- Provide access to a computer to apply online.
As a result, applicants of this type of visas have to go to a VAC to give their biometrics or take advantage of the services mentioned above.
Since there is no VAC in Iran, the Iranians who want to give their biometrics have to travel to a country where there is a VAC. Unfortunately, the current situation causes trouble for the applicants, namely:
- Since the Ankara Visa Office processes the majority of the Iranian applications, the primary VACs for the Iranians are the ones located in Turkey. According to travel advisories by the Government of Canada, travelers may face many problems such as terrorism, kidnapping, petty crime, muggings, physical and verbal harassment, and .... Needless to say that closeness to the Syrian border could also be a potential threat to the lives of travelers. Moreover, on April 9, 2016, the U.S. embassy in Ankara sent a security message to U.S. citizens, indicating “there are credible threats to tourist areas, in particular to public squares and docks in Istanbul and Antalya.”
- The elderly and handicapped may not be able to travel outside of Iran alone. Therefore, the companionship of another family member may become necessary which incurs extra costs and inconvenience. For instance, the companion might have to use his or her limited annual leave, or suspend his or her business for this purpose.
- In some cases, Canadian citizens have to face hardship. If the parent of a Canadian citizen decides to travel to Canada, the said Canadian citizen might have to go all the way to Iran just to assist and accompany his or her elderly parent(s) to the VAC located outside of Iran. Clearly, this may expose the said Canadian citizen to the dangers he or she might face in Turkey or elsewhere.
- There are citizens of other countries who reside in Iran. These citizens may require a visa to travel to another country for the purpose of giving their biometric at a VAC.
- If the visa is issued, the applicants have to travel a second time to collect their visas. Some applicants leave their passports to strangers for the purpose of collecting the visas. This common approach is not safe and may compromise the Canadian visa counterfoils.
- A large group of Iranian-Canadians and Iranian nationals (i.e. students and workers) live in Canada. Consequently, a great number of Iranian nationals request temporary visas to Canada every day. The current arrangements negatively affect both groups directly or indirectly.
The lack of VACs is disrespectful to a community that has been a significant population in Canada in the past few years.
Opening at least a VAC office in Iran can make the whole visa application process more convenient and less costly or dangerous for Iranian citizens or citizens of other countries who reside in Iran.
Furthermore, there are already VACs established in Iran by VFS Global in partnership with the UK Visa & Immigration. Clearly, these centers can be expanded or rearranged for the purpose of providing services to people seeking temporary visas to Canada.
In the light of the issues above, we, the undersigned, strongly urge the opening of Visa Application Centers in Iran.
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