Indian travellers are finding it difficult to get visa appointment dates to U.K, U.S and Canada. Indian travellers find their planned European travel plans stuck or on the verge of getting cancelled due to delays in appointment dates and long visa processing times at certain Schengen-country embassies.
Confirming this problem, travellers and tour operators familiar with the matter said no appointment dates are available for this month and the next at many embassies.
This is not limited to the U.K but visas for the US and Canada are also taking time.
Rajesh Sharma (name changed on request), a retired private sector executive staying in Gurgaon is stuck because of this situation. Even after a month of his application for a Schengen visa to visit Greece he has still not received any update. He was supposed to join a group tour that starts in Europe on May 29.
“I have paid close to $16,000 (excluding the cost of an air ticket), which is non-refundable. Even if I have to cancel and lose all the money I paid, I cannot go anywhere else because my passport is lying with the Greek embassy,” said Sharma.
“My passport has 10-year valid multiple entry visas to the US, the UK, and Canada. I am someone who has been travelling to Europe every year until I couldn’t because of Covid induced international travel restrictions,” he added.
Satbir Singh, founder and CEO of Thinkstr lamented a similar situation. He is a writer of campaigns like “Incredible India” and “Bajaate Raho”, tweeted to @FranceinIndia, the official Twitter account of the ambassador of France, saying he is likely to miss Cannes Lions as the earliest visa appointment date available seemed to be after the fest.
Vice-president of the Travel Agents Association of India, Jay Bhatia explained that the visas for Europe are getting extended by up to one month as some Schengen embassies are not operating fully.
“US, Europe and Canada visas are also taking time. The demand is high but there is no visa supply and no respite from the consulates. We have been told some of these consulates don’t have full-fledged teams in place post the pandemic and that they may have been given mandates to issue a certain number of visas only.
“People looking to travel next month are being shifted to other destinations such as Mauritius, Seychelles or Singapore. Airfares are also skyrocketing because of rising fuels,” he said.
However, a spokesperson for the embassy of Switzerland in India, speaking to The Economic Times on the matter said that while there is an increase in visa applications, there is no delay at the embassy’s end. “The applicants should be aware of the turnaround time of 15 working days, as per the Schengen Codex. Despite the increased number of applicants, the Swiss Embassy in New Delhi remains as responsive in terms of visa issuance. As of this morning, applicants could book slots between May 31 and June 27, depending on the city in which they applied,” the spokesperson said.
The sudden increase in visa appointments for these specific places has created a stagnancy like situation, delaying visa approvals.