From 2009 to 2019, Canada has awarded $183,204,308 to VFS Global to handle visa application submissions and biometric data collection at Canadian visa application centres in more than 80 countries, according to a Global News analysis of federal contracts.
And as the country moved to privatize parts of its visa application process, immigration, privacy and security experts say the lack of transparency and oversight of the visa outsourcing giant should be a major concern for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.
“This is the invisible big brother Goliath collecting literally hundreds of millions of cases of private information centralized under one private company,” said Richard Kurland, an immigration lawyer based in Vancouver.
Although VFS Global says it’s headquartered in Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates, Canada’s contracts are signed with VF Worldwide Holdings, which up until 2019 was headquartered in Mauritius – an island off the coast of Madagascar known for enabling questionable tax avoidance measures.
Another $10 million in contracts was awarded to TT Visa Services, also owned by VFS Global, to handle visa applications in 24 countries, including the United States and several in South America.
Founded in 2001 by Zubin Karkaria, who is still the CEO, VFS Global is a giant in the world of visa processing, having completed more than 224 million applications, containing sensitive personal and financial information, and operates in 144 countries, according to the company’s website.
The company is now primarily owned by EQT VII (No. 1) Limited Partnership, which is backed by Chengdong Investments, a subsidiary of the state-run China Investment Corp., according to documents filed with Britain’s corporate registry. The link to the Chinese-state owned firm was first reported by the Globe and Mail.
VFS Global said it complies with the “tax laws and practices in the countries in which we operate.”