Experts say a variety of factors including shortage of embassy staff, a huge backlog of applications, a massive increase in demand for tourist visas, and stricter protocols while granting visas are to blame
Planning a trip out of the country after spending two years of the COVID-19 pandemic hunkering down at home?
Eager to go abroad to resume your studies or career after the government announced resumption of international flights in March?
Chances are you’re in for a long wait when it comes to getting a visa.
Which countries are delaying issuing visas?
Representational image. News18
Indians are facing long delays for visas for US, UK, Canada, as well as some European countries.
As per NDTV, the US Embassy, which recently announced resumption of in-person visa appointments from September, said slots are completely booked till April 2023 in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai.
Meanwhile, the British High Commission website says visitor visa applications may take six weeks to process, while for Canada that number is over four months.
As per The Hindu, appointments for Germany, Italy and Iceland are unavailable.
India Today reported that the German embassy in New Delhi put out the following statement: “Due to the peak season, at some German Missions it currently takes at least 15 days on an average to process your Schengen visa application. Please take this into account before filing your application. If your travel date is imminent or lies within two weeks of the application date, please check if you can postpone your trip. In general, neither the German Mission nor the Service Provider can expedite the process. Requests for preferential treatment cannot be honoured.”
For Greece and Spain, the wait time can be as high as six to eight weeks, The Hindu Business Line reported.
The Danish Embassy in India last week temporarily suspended applications for short-stay visas and residence permits, Moneycontrol reported.
“Due to shortage of staff, absence and an unforeseen increase in the number of applications, the Embassy of Denmark in New Delhi temporarily suspends all new appointments at VFS,” the statement read.
Why is this happening?
Experts say a variety of factors are play. These include shortage of embassy staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic; a huge backlog of applications; a massive increase in demand for tourist visas, and stricter protocols regarding granting visas.
This, at a time when international growth has reached 72 per cent of pre-COVID levels, as per ICRA.
“There has been an unprecedented uptick in outbound travel demand from India to many parts of the world this summer. Given the extremely high pent-up demand, this was expected with the opening of international borders, easing of travel restrictions and resumption of regular international flights from India in March 2022,” a VFS Global spokesperson told The Hindu.
Representational image AFP
VFS is seeing approximately 20,000 applications from India in a day, which is close to the volumes recorded during the pre-pandemic peak season, as per the newspaper.
Jyoti Mayal, president of Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) told NDTV, “It’s a lot of pent-up demand. It is the first proper summer holiday after Covid. People have already travelled to neighbouring countries like Dubai and Maldives. So now the Schengen countries are facing the brunt of the entire population moving that side. A lot of people are getting to travel with their friends or cousins after a long time.”
“Embassies are not able to cope up with the demand. During Covid a lot of their staff had moved back to their countries and that is why there is a shortage of staff now. We have not only written to the External Affairs Minister of India, we are also seeking time from embassies of various countries so that our delegation can meet them and urge them to resolve these issues,” Mayal said.
The Travel Agents Association of India has written a letter to the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, seeking his intervention and a government to government dialogue over delay in Schengen and US visas.
Frustration boils over
For many, the frustration is boiling over.
33-year-old Prayash Giria, eager to visit Greece told NDTV his flight is two weeks away but there’s still no word on his visa.
“I have never faced a visa experience like this before. I’ve been travelling internationally for 12 years in which I have visited over 20 countries. Usually I would get my visa in 4-5 days but this time it has been over a month since I applied. I am scared because I have been hearing about people not getting the visa on time. Some others managed to get their visa at the last moment. I have spent close to ₹ 1.5 lakh already on tickets, hotel, insurance etc and if the visa does not come in time I will lose out on a lot of money,” Giria said.
A 41-year-old traveller who began planning his US trip in October told The Hindu he has to wait until February due to visa appointments being unavailable.
“I was given a placeholder appointment for October 30 and 31 when I applied in February this year. But last week, I received an email informing me that the appointments stood cancelled, without any information on whether I will have to apply afresh. It was impossible to get any information from the website either, but following an update from the embassy on social media I tried again after a few days and now have visa appointments in February 2023,” he told the newspaper.
What can Indians do?
Experts advise applying for visa as early as possible.
Speaking to The Times of India, VFS Global’s Shubashish Ganguly said, “Most countries accept visa applications up to three months in advance. According to the revised Schengen visa code, one can apply for a Schengen visa up to six months before the date of travel.”
It is also advisable, in case one is determined to go on holiday, to look at alternate locations such as Turkey, Egypt, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia.
With inputs from agencies
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