Summer is just around the corner, and people are gearing up for their much-awaited vacations. However, if you are planning a foreign trip, be warned that getting a visa might take longer than usual.
The wait time for a visa to travel to the most sought-after destinations may stretch from five to six weeks and, in some cases, four to five months.
Pending Visa Applications
It is worth noting that a lot of Travel agents are dealing with a backlog of pending visa applications from customers who want to travel abroad during their children’s summer vacation.
One family from New Delhi planned to visit France in May, and their travel agent had submitted their visa application forms ten days ago, but they had yet to receive an appointment. The agent has now advised them to try their luck with a walk-in.
According to another travel agent, appointments for a visa interview to travel to France were not available, but appointments for Germany were available in July.
No Appointment Slots
According to Daniel D’Souza, President and Country Head of Holidays at SOTC Travel, the diplomatic missions of Italy, France, and Spain currently do not have appointment slots. According to Sabina Chopra, Chief Operating Officer, Corporate Travel, Yatra.com, the delay is caused by vendors, VFS and BLS (visa service providers), as well as embassies.
However, some embassies, such as those in Switzerland, Denmark, and Austria, are easier to schedule appointments with, but they may still require a reasonable wait period of 10 to 15 days.
Visa processing can take longer than usual during the holiday season, and this is true across all geographies and embassies, according to a VFS Global spokesperson. The company adheres to the standard operating procedure of processing visa applications within one business day.
However, decisions on visa applications, including the availability of appointment slots, visa tenure, and processing timelines, are made solely at the discretion of the respective client governments and may differ from mission to mission.
The surge in Visa Applications Causes Delays
During the peak outbound tourism season last year, VFS Global received an average of 20,000 visa applications per day.
Due to the high level of pent-up travel demand this year, applicants are advised to apply for their visas early in order to avoid peak season-related processing delays. Most countries accept visa applications up to 90 days in advance, with Schengen accepting documents up to six months in advance.
Even with advance planning, obtaining visa appointments to popular destinations such as Italy, France, Germany, and the Netherlands may be difficult. The average wait time is 5-9 weeks, and appointments are sometimes released unexpectedly at odd hours, making scheduling an appointment difficult.
Similarly, Visa appointments for the United States are being made available late as January-February 2024.
Processing Systems Strained Due to Surge in Demand
According to Sabina Chopra, COO of Corporate Travel at Yatra.com, there has been a strong demand for outbound travel from India this year, with a 20-25% increase in confirmed bookings compared to the previous year.
However, the increased demand has put a strain on visa processing systems, resulting in a backlog of applications and longer wait times.
Delays can also be attributed to pandemic-related restrictions and safety protocols put in place by different countries. Despite the challenges, there is a threefold increase in demand for Europe during the upcoming summer vacation season.
Exploring Other Options
Due to longer wait times for visas, Indians are changing their travel plans and exploring other destinations with shorter visa wait times.
Destinations such as the UK, Turkey, Mauritius, Bali, the Maldives, Australia, and New Zealand have grown in popularity due to their easy visa procedures and direct connectivity.
Furthermore, destinations such as the UAE, Singapore, Malaysia, Oman, and Vietnam that offer visas as early as 3-4 working days are also in high demand during the summer holidays.
The Way Forward
As obtaining visas has become a significant concern for Indian travellers, travel agents are advising clients to plan their trips in advance and explore options with shorter visa wait times. Furthermore, with the current situation likely to continue for the foreseeable future, it is essential to be prepared and have a backup plan in case of unexpected delays or cancellations.
(With Inputs From Moneycontrol)
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