Long wait for Schengen visas likely to get longer

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NEW DELHI: A Delhi-based doctor who had to travel to Paris to attend a medical conference with his team has lost thousands of rupees in cancellation fees for air tickets and hotel reservations. The reason – he and his team did not get their Schengen visa in time, which requires confirming reservations to be attached at the time of application submission.
The path for a Schengen visa can take almost a month.
“This is not an isolated case. Hundreds of people waiting for Schengen visas are facing a similar situation as the processing time has increased like never before. Appointments to submit a visa (application) for countries are hardly available until the end of June.The minimum processing time is 15 working days, but passports are not received even after four weeks in many cases,” said Anil Kalsi, co-secretary of the Travel Agents Federation of India, also one of the leading travel agents in Delhi, who handled the doctor’s bookings.
“Passengers have lost a lot of money because tickets and hotel confirmations have to be submitted with the application. And when passport with visa is not received in time, people end up paying huge fees. cancellation,” Kalsi added.
The Swiss Embassy in India on May 19 told travel agents in a statement: “With immediate effect and due to the high volume of visa applications, the Swiss Visa VFS Center and the Swiss Embassy in New Delhi will only accept visa applications, with travel dates that do not fall within the next 15 days from the date of submission of the application at VFS centers across India.This is valid for all short-term tourist visa applications.
The Schengen visa situation could actually get worse now. The Danish Embassy in New Delhi has temporarily suspended all new visa appointments at VFS due to “understaffing, absence and an unforeseen increase” in the number of applications.
“As of July 1 and until further notice, no appointment slots will be available at VFS…. This announcement only applies to short-stay visa applications. It does not apply to applications for long-term permits. Only in the event of a life-threatening situation for a host in Denmark can the embassy be contacted,” VFS Global said on its website, while adding “Danish Embassy in New Delhi regrets any inconvenience caused by this unprecedented situation.”
A VFS Global spokesperson told TOI, “We are experiencing high volumes of visa applications, coupled with limited availability of appointments and extended visa processing times from India. On average, VFS Global receives about 20,000 inquiries from India in a day, which is close to the volumes seen during the pre-pandemic peak season.
“VFS Global only handles the administrative and non-judgmental aspects of the visa application process and follows the standard operating procedure of processing applications within one business day. Information on visa decision times is provided by the respective client governments on their websites. VFS Global remains committed to working with client governments to increase capacity and meet the ever-increasing demand for outbound travel from India,” the spokesperson added.
Travel agents say the problem mainly concerns the Schengen states. “The UK has a two-month waiting period for visa processing, but if you pay around Rs 25,000 extra for a priority visa, your application will be processed within a week,” said a travel agent who did not wish to be named.
EU countries continue to warn of long waiting times. For example, while announcing that Germany will recognize Covaxin for travel purposes, the country’s outgoing Ambassador to India, Walter J Lindner, tweeted last Thursday that “due to Covid backlogs, visa sections have longer than normal wait times, please be patient”.
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