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Ethical AI: Guiding Principles for Secure and Trusted Visa Services at VFS Global



Ethical AI: Guiding Principles for Secure and Trusted Visa Services at VFS Global

In the dynamic world of visa and consular services, embarking on the journey of artificial intelligence (AI) is like starting to craft a unique blend of coffee – it’s a process of careful selection, thoughtful preparation, and continuous refinement. At VFS Global, we are just beginning this exciting journey, ensuring every step we take is rooted in ethical practices and strong collaboration with client governments. This article explores how we plan to navigate this path, focusing on data privacy, human oversight, bias mitigation, and responsible development.

Our First Step: Brewing Our AI Vision

Our journey into AI started with a vision: to build an in-house large language model (LLM) that encapsulates the extensive domain knowledge that we have built over the years. This foundational step ensures that our data remains securely within our control, setting the stage for future applications that align with our ethical standards and collaborative ethos.

1. Data Privacy: The Secret Ingredient

Data privacy in AI is like the secret ingredient in a recipe – essential for quality and trust. At VFS Global, we adhere to robust data protection protocols to keep personal information as secure as a guarded recipe.

  • Data Minimisation: We only collect the essential data needed, much like using just the right amount of sugar in a brew to avoid over-sweetening. This practice minimises exposure and enhances privacy.
  • Encryption and Access Control: Think of encryption as a locked vault for our ingredients – only those with the right key can access it. We are establishing stringent controls to safeguard data from unauthorised access.
  • Consent and Transparency: Our approach is akin to an open kitchen, where users are informed about how their data will be used. Consent is obtained transparently, ensuring users understand and trust the process.

2. Regulatory Compliance: Following the Recipe

In our journey, adhering to regulations is like following a recipe to the letter. We are committed to aligning our AI practices with both local laws and the specific guidelines of our client governments.

  • Explicit Approvals: Every step in our AI development, like adding a new ingredient to our recipe, is done with explicit approval from our client governments. This ensures that each action is fully compliant and collaborative.
  • Local and International Laws: We are committed to adhering to all relevant loca lregulations and international standards, making our AI journey legally compliant and ethically sound.

3. Human Oversight: The Master Chef’s Guidance

Even the most advanced coffee machine needs a barista’s touch. Similarly, our AI will work under human supervision to ensure it supports, rather than replaces, humans.

  • Human-in-the-Loop (HITL): Our AI solutions are being designed to assist with data analysis and processing, but critical decisions remain in the hands of our human experts, ensuring a balanced blend of technology and human judgment.
  • Continuous Training and Feedback: Just as a barista constantly hones their craft, our staff provides continuous feedback to refine AI outputs, enhancing both efficiency and reliability.

4. Bias Mitigation: Crafting a Fair Brew

Bias in AI can lead to undesirable outcomes, much like a bitter aftertaste in coffee. We are committed to developing AI models that are fair and unbiased, reflecting our diverse user base.

  • Diverse Training Data: We will use diverse datasets to train our AI, akin to selecting a variety of coffee beans to create a balanced flavour, ensuring no single characteristic dominates.
  • Bias Testing: Regular audits will help us identify and mitigate biases, much like tasting and adjusting a brew to perfect its balance.
  • Inclusive Design: Our AI systems will be designed with inclusivity in mind, ensuring they cater to the diverse backgrounds of our users.

5. Transparency and Explainability: The Open Kitchen

Transparency in AI is like an open kitchen where customers can see their coffee being made. We are committed to making our AI processes understandable and accessible.

  • Explainable AI (XAI): We will employ techniques to ensure AI tools and process are transparent, much like explaining the ingredients and process behind a signature blend.
  • Data Transparency: Transparency in data usage involves detailing how data is collected, processed, and safeguarded, ensuring that all operations are conducted ethically and securely.

6. Accountability and Governance: Setting the Guardrails

Ensuring accountability in AI is like having a quality control team that maintains the standards of our coffee shop. We have established strong governance frameworks to oversee our AI initiatives.

  • Ethical AI Committee: Our Ethical AI Committee, comprising AI experts and ethicists, oversees AI development to ensure it aligns with our ethical guidelines, much like a tasting panel ensuring every batch meets our standards.
  • Regular Audits and Assessments: Periodic assessments ensure our AI systems remain ethically sound, akin to regular quality checks in a bustling café.
  • Governance Structure: We maintain a clear governance framework that documents and validates each step of our AI development. This ensures that all our AI applications adhere to ethical guidelines and regulatory requirements, much like a well-documented recipe ensures consistency and quality.


As we start blending AI into the fabric of visa and consular services, VFS Global remains committed to ethical practices that prioritise data privacy, regulatory compliance, and human oversight. Our journey is just beginning, and involves careful planning, ongoing refinement, and a commitment to excellence.

Our in-house AI development, governed by ethical frameworks and supported by our partnership with the Responsible AI Institute, ensures that we build AI applications that are secure and trustworthy. By focusing on co-creation and collaboration with client governments, we ensure that our AI-driven solutions are developed transparently and ethically, with guardrails firmly in place to prioritise ethical governance over quick business wins.

Through continuous improvement and a commitment to responsible AI practices, VFS Global’s approach is a testament of our dedication to innovation and ethical stewardship in the evolving landscape of visa services.

The author is Parveen Kumar Jiterwal, Chief AI & Innovation Officer at VFS Global, responsible for driving AI and tech integration. He has 28 years of experience at Kuoni, SOTC, Cox & Kings, and DDB Mudra Group, and has founded a few innovative ventures as well.

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