Schengen visa interview slots elusive this summer as demand shoots up | India News – Times of India


NEW DELHI: Schengen countries saw the third highest demand for visas in India last year in absolute terms at 9.7 lakh applications, 44% more than 6.7 lakh in 2022. In percentage terms among the top five countries, India saw the second highest increase in applications after China, followed by Morocco and Turkey, according to the European Commission. In spite of the surge, unavailability of visa interview slots tripped many Indians’ travel plans.
Russia and China have had a story of fluctuating fortunes. While China, which started opening its borders for international travel only last year and had huge pent-up demand, leapt to the top of table from rank 22 in 2022. It saw the highest increase at 1,104% – over 10 times – in 2023 over the 2022 application numbers. (See box).
Russia, on the other hand, slipped from rank 2 in 2022 to rank 5 in 2023 mainly due to the war on Ukraine, and the ensuing sanctions. Russians’ Schengen visa applications fell 25% in this two-year span.
For India, travel veterans believe the actual demand is even higher than official figures. But the unavailability of visa interview slots meant many Indians who wanted to travel could not even get a chance to apply for Schengen visas. “Appointments are simply not available with a majority of Schengen countries. If you want to travel to Europe this summer, the earliest appointment date for Germany and Italy is in July. This is making life very difficult for travellers. Rules require people to apply to the consulate of the country which will be their primary destination in Europe. But people are forced to opt for any country that has an appointment available for a visa in time,” said Anil Kalsi, VP, Travel Agents Federation of India.

Schengen visa interview slots elusive this summer as demand shoots up.

Many agents have vented their ire at VFSon multiple countsmany times, including that the agency handles far too many nations. Applying for a Schengen visa requires prior flight and hotel bookings, and not getting a visa in time means bearing huge cancellation charges.
In response to the complaints, a VFS Global spokesperson said: “Visa decision timelines are entirely at the discretion of the respective embassies/consulates… We urge travellers to plan travel early to avoid last-minute surprises. Most countries accept visa applications up to 90 days (3 months) before date of travel.” According to the revised Schengen Visa Code, effective Feb 2, 2020, you can apply for a Schengen visa up to 6 months before your date of travel.” Another bugbear is the EU policy of issuing very short term visas till recently to frequent visitors, something that was changed a few days back.
This means frequent travelers have had to apply time and again till recently.

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