“At this rate, we should be planning for Christmas 2024,” said Chopra (name changed on request).
The US Scores of people planning to apply for visitor visas have been stumped by unprecedentedly long appointment wait times. This US State Department The website shows that the average wait in India is one and a half years, which means that those who are considering applying now can get an appointment for March-April 2024.
So said the leading travel agents Visa Applications and processing are also taking longer for some other countries, including the Schengen States, Canada and the UK.
“Most European embassies do not even give appointments for visas. Sweden is among the rare countries that offer appointments. Similarly, an appointment can be found for Switzerland at the end of September. VFS There is a visa-at-home service for Austrian visas (for an additional fee). People are trying to get Schengen visa from these places,” said joint secretary of Travel Agents Federation of India. Anil Kalsi.
“But the longest appointment time is for US visitor visas. However, once the passport is submitted there it is returned within 10 days. Visas that are approved are granted 10-year multiple entries at no additional cost. The US Plus this is a big plus,” he added.
So can someone who obtains a Schengen visa from India, say Sweden, fly directly to another European country, such as Germany, France, Holland or Switzerland (the four EU nations that have direct flights from India)? The longest period of stay in Schengen states should be in the country from which the visa is obtained, Kalsi explained.
After Omicron, travel demand – and visa applications – to India increased. Foreign missions that sent staff back home during Covid-19 are yet to increase manpower, leading to huge delays in visa processing.
Last week, Britain’s High Commissioner to India, Alex Ellis, “apologised” for visa delays and advised people against buying air tickets until they receive their visas. Missions are currently focusing on expediting student visas as many countries expect an unprecedented number of Indian students to join their colleges this fall.
A US Embassy spokesperson told TOI on Wednesday that all efforts are being made to reduce the waiting period through steps such as increasing consular staffing and prioritizing certain visa types.
“The US Department of State is committed to facilitating legal travel to the US… (it is) reducing appointment wait times in all visa classes as quickly as possible around the world. The visa process is recovering after an almost complete shutdown and freezing of resources during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
“As part of this recovery, the US government is prioritizing national interest and repeat travel (applicants who already have a US visa), which may mean some travelers experience longer wait times applying for their first visitor visa. doing. Examples of priority groups include students, temporary agricultural workers, other workers and major business travelers,” the spokesperson added.
Efforts are being made to reduce wait times and backlogs by “proactively addressing the consular staffing gap created by the pandemic, onboarding and training new staff,” he said. “The State Department has doubled consular recruitment of US officers this fiscal year compared to last year, and newly trained personnel are moving to critical consular positions abroad, including in India.”
A spokesman for the British High Commission said that despite the increase in applications, there was an increase in visas being issued. “We are currently experiencing significant demand for visit visas as we all resume international travel post-pandemic. The UK continues to be a popular destination for Indian nationals and following the pandemic, we have seen the most significant increase in demand for visitor visas from India. Figures released earlier this year show that over 106,000 visitor visas were issued to Indian nationals from April 2021 to March 2022, a 328% increase over the previous year,” the spokesperson told TOI.
A spokesperson for the Canadian High Commission said: “Despite the pandemic, the Government of Canada was still able to make more than half a million (500,000) decisions and welcome more than 405,000 new permanent residents in 2021 – the largest number of new arrivals in a single year. In Canadian history. Of these, about 32% were Indian nationals…. In the first five months of 2022, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) received nearly 123,500 study permit applications from Indian residents, which is 55% more than the applications received during the same period in 2019.