The wait for visas is getting longer: is there a solution? What VFS Global says

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With the easing of COVID restrictions and the resumption of regular international flights, many Indians are preparing to travel abroad. But, for many of them, the process is taking too long due to massive delays in obtaining visas, especially for some European countries. For example, the processing time for visas in the United Kingdom has been reduced from four to ten weeks. Germany has stopped accepting permanent residence visas. Meanwhile, the Danish Embassy in India announced last week the temporary suspension of applications for short-stay visas and residence permits.

Bengaluru-based Shilajit Sengupta attempted to obtain a visiting scientist visa to attend a summer school in Bonn, Germany. “The visa appointment is not available until August, when I have to travel in September. Now if I book my flights and at that time if my visa is not approved, it will be a totally unnecessary and huge loss.”

Apoorva Shridhar, a communications professional currently based in London, has similar issues. Her parents applied for their UK visa on April 19; it’s been over 7 weeks and they haven’t received their visa yet. “We contacted UKVI via a paid inquiry service and received a standard response of ‘Decision still pending’. There is no communication on visa status or processing time,” Shridhar said.

It is quite a frustrating and stressful situation without any clarity on how long visa processing will take, she added. Apart from the fact that the problem is mentally taxing, Shridharsid said, “there is also a huge financial aspect associated with changing or canceling international airfares during peak travel season.”

What are the reasons for the delay?

Visa facilitation agency VFS Global pointed out that the excessive workload due to the sudden increase in visa applications is the main reason for the longer waiting period. In addition to this shortage of staff in embassies, stricter rules for issuing visas are also causing delays.

Increase in tourist visa applications

With the opening of the international border and the resumption of flights to these countries, there has been an unprecedented increase in demand for outbound travel. Also, due to the COVID outbreak, many students and professionals had returned to India; and as countries open up again, they plan to return to those countries. “As a result, we are experiencing high volumes of visa applications, coupled with limited availability of appointments and stretched visa processing times from India,” Soubhik Mitra, Deputy Managing Director of VFS Global told Live Mint.

Currently, the agency receives about 20,000 requests per day “which is close to the volumes recorded during the pre-pandemic peak season”.

Embassies with reduced staff

Many embassies in India have temporarily closed their visa processing centers after the aftermath of COVID-19 and officials have returned to their countries. And now that those offices have reopened, embassies are struggling to bring back officials who previously worked for them.

In fact, the Danish and German embassies very recently advertised for these positions.

Stricter rules

Following the COVID outbreak, some counties have tightened the visa granting rule. Processing now involves some additional checks, for example checking vaccination certificates.

Is there a solution to this problem?

Hinting that there is no immediate solution, VFS Global said: “We have urged customers to apply for visas early to avoid last minute rush.” The agency also said it was unable to provide further details regarding the visa processing time, as “information on this is provided by the respective client governments on their websites.”

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