The way for a Schengen visa can extend almost a month.
“This is not an isolated case. Hundreds of people waiting for Schengen visas are facing a similar predicament as the processing time has gone up like never before. Appointments to submit visa (application) for European countries are practically not available till June-end. The minimum processing time is 15 working days, but passports are not being received back even after four weeks in many cases,” said Travel Agents Federation of India joint secretary Anil Kalsi, also a leading travel agent in Delhi, who handled the doctor’s bookings.
“Passengers have lost a lot of money since tickets and hotels confirmations have to be submitted with application. And when passport with visa is not received in time, people are ending up paying huge cancellation charges,” Kalsi added.
The Swiss embassy in India on May 19, told travel agents in a communique: “With immediate effect and due to the high volume of the visa applications, the Swiss Visa VFS Centre and the Embassy of Switzerland in New Delhi will only accept the visa applications, with travel dates, which are not falling in next 15 days from the date of application submission at the VFS Centres across India. This is valid for all the short-term tourist visa applications.”
The Schengen visa situation could in fact get worse now. The embassy of Denmark in New Delhi has temporarily suspends all new visa appointment at VFS due to “shortage of staff, absence and an unforeseen increase” in the number of applications.
“From July 1 and until further notice, no appointment slots will be available at VFS…. This announcement applies only to short stay visa applications. It does not apply to long term permit applications. Only in case of a life-threatening situation for a host in Denmark can the embassy be contacted,” VFS Global said on its website, while adding “the embassy of Denmark 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 appointment availability and stretched visa processing timelines from India. On an average, VFS Global is receiving approximately 20,000 applications from India in a day which is close to the volumes recorded during pre-pandemic peak season.”
“VFS Global manages only the administrative and non-judgmental aspects of the visa application process and follows the standard operating procedure of processing applications in one business day. Information on visa decision timelines is provided by respective client governments on their websites. VFS Global stays committed to work with the client governments to increase capacity and to cater to the ever-growing demand for outbound travel from India,” the spokesperson added.
Travel agents say the problem is mainly for Schengen states. “UK has a waiting period of two months for visa processing but if you pay about Rs 25,000 extra for a priority visa then your application will be processed in a week,” said a travel agent who did not wish to be named.
EU nations keep warning about the long wait periods. For instance while announcing Germany will recognise Covaxin for travel purposes, the country’s outgoing ambassador to India Walter J Lindner had tweeted last Thursday that “because of Covid-backlogs visa sections have longer waiting periods than normal, please have patience.”