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Schengen: Despite US & Schengen crunch, more Indians applying for visas this year than record 2019 | India News


NEW DELHI: The number of visa applications filed in India this calendar year are all set to cross pre-pandemic 2019 levels. This despite the continuing crunch for two major destinations for desis — the US and Schengen states — which have long interview wait times and appointment count capping, respectively and sky-high international airfares. VFS Global, which manages visa applications for more than 50 countries, says it has from January to June 2023 processed well over 30 lakh visa applications in India as opposed to 60 lakh in all of 2019 which had faced none of the challenges currently being seen.
Incidentally, 2019 was a record year for visa lodgements in India which 2023 is now all set to better. The numbers would have been higher had it not been for the processing limitations being faced by the US and Schengen States, say several travel industry veterans.
“We are expecting to surpass pre-pandemic visa applications volumes by this calendar year end. There has been a robust rebound in outbound travel sentiments. Despite initial scepticism, the level of bounce back has resulted in a demand-supply gap,” VFS Global COO (South Asia) Prabuddha Sen told TOI.
The major bottlenecks currently are about 1.5-year-long interview wait period for US B1 (business) and B2 (visitor) visa applicants. Leading travel agents say all Schengen countries — barring Norway and Sweden — have an visa appointment count capping which means only about half of the number of Indians desiring to travel are able to secure an appointment. “Portugal, Poland, Italy, France and Germany have this issue. Switzerland and Netherland also to a lesser extent. Basically all Schengen states barring a handful like Norway and Sweden are offering appointments as per the demand for travel,” said multiple travel industry biggies.
International airfares have refused to drop post the 2021-22 reopening of borders globally. It is not uncommon to find what once used to be return fare is now just the one-way price. For example, pre-pandemic India-New York return economy would cost on an average Rs 75,000 and now the same starts at about a lakh.
Despite these constraints, the post-pandemic demand for international travel from India is back with a bang. “In 2022, visa application volumes from India increased by more than 140% over 2021. While the numbers were about 30% less than 2019 levels, we are confident that we would cross the pre-pandemic level momentum by year-end on the back on the continued pent-up demand,” said Prabuddha Sen.
Given the “unprecedented demand”, Sen added destinations offering e-visas such as UAE, Indonesia, Thailand and Azerbaijan have attracted several travellers with the seasonality of the peak travel season extending into the traditionally lean travel month of September in India. Sen added that “the two major global contracts of visa processing for Sweden and Australia recently won by VFS reiterate partnership with client governments and the restoration of travellers’ confidence demonstrating the early travel rebound in outbound from India.”
The department of home affairs, Australia, has awarded the global biometric collection service across seven regions to VFS Global including India. “The company also renewed its global visa contract for Sweden. As part of this, Sweden visa applications will be accepted across eight VFS Global visa application centres in India including Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi and Pune,” he added.


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