(MENAFN - Arab News) Germany's growing commercial, industrial and tourism ties with Saudi Arabia was further solidified yesterday with the opening of a visa application center in the Eastern Province.
German Ambassador Dieter W. Haller and VFS Global CEO Paul Vijayakumar inaugurated the center in the presence of a number of businessmen and diplomats including Mohan V. Mathew, CEO-Etimad; Peter Hoffman, counselor (economic affairs); Tanja Fuerst, head of the visa section, German Embassy in Riyadh; Hariprasad V., head of operations, VFS Global; and Harris Moosa, country manager, Etimad-VFS Global.
The center is located on the fourth floor of the Gulf Center near Sofitel on the Alkhobar Corniche.
The ambassador announced his embassy's tie-up with VFS Global which is considered the world's largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions and governments.
The embassy signed an agreement to outsource German visa processing to VFS Global with a view to speeding up the process.
"Previously all visa-seekers from the Eastern Province had to apply for a visa from our embassy in Riyadh. Now that there is an increased interest in our country from the business and tourist communities in the Eastern Province, we have started this center right here in Alkhobar," said Haller. "This is an important region for us because it is the Kingdom's economic powerhouse."
According to Haller, the German Embassy in Riyadh processed more than 34,000 visas in 2012. "This figure was significantly higher than the one in 2011," he said. "In 2011, we have had 24,000 visa applicants."
VFS Global chief executive was more than happy in the trust accorded them by the German ambassador.
"It is our privilege to partner and provide services to the German Embassy in Saudi Arabia, and facilitate the visa application process for Saudis in the Eastern Province," said Vijayakumar. "We are committed to providing highly efficient and convenient services to all visa applicants applying for a German visa in the region."
Officially called the VFS Global Schengen Visa Application Center (SVAC), it has begun receiving visa applications.
"VFS Global will be responsible for accepting applications for German visas from applicants residing in Saudi Arabia.
All applications will continue to be assessed and processed by the Embassy of Germany in Riyadh," said Vijayakumar.
"The key features of the center will be longer operating hours, dedicated website for easy access, visa information including visa types, biometrics, applicable fees and application status, professional and responsive staff dedicated to handle visa queries, dedicated call center unit and e-mail support."
The service, he said, would attract a nominal service fee, payable at the center at the time of submitting the application.
The Alkhobar visa center will work from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday.
By SIRAJ WAHAB & SAEED AL-ASMARI