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With the easing of COVID restrictions and resumption of regular international flights, many Indians are gearing up to travel abroad. But, for several of them, the process is taking too long owing to massive delays in getting visas, especially for some European counties. For example, visa processing time in the UK has risen to four to ten weeks. Germany has stopped taking permanent stay visas. Meanwhile, Danish Embassy in India last week announced the temporary suspension of applications for short-stay visas and residence permits.

Bengaluru-based Shilajit Sengupta has been trying to get a guest scientist visa to attend a summer school at Germany's Bonn. "The visa appointment is not available until August, whereas I have to travel within September. Now, if I book my flights and by that time if my visa doesn't get approved it will be an utterly useless and huge loss."

Apoorva Shridhar, a communications professional who is currently based out of London, has similar woes. Her parents applied for their UK visa on 19 April; it has been over 7 weeks, and they are yet to receive their visas. "We reached out to UKVI through a paid service for inquiry and received a standard response of 'Decision still awaiting'. There is no communication on the visa status or processing time," Shridhar said.

It is a quite frustrating and stressful situation with zero clarity on how long the visa processing will take, she added further. Apart from the issue being mentally taxing, Shridharsaid, "there is also a huge financial aspect associated with altering or cancelling international flight tickets during peak travel season"

What are the reasons behind the delay?

The sudden rise in visa applications is the main reason for a longer wait period. Apart from that shortage of staff at embassies, and stricter rules for issuing visas are also leading to the delay.

Increase in tourist visa applications

With the opening up of the international border and the resumption of flights to these countries, there has been an unprecedented uptick in outbound travel demand. Moreover, due to the COVID outbreak, many students and working professionals had returned to India; and as countries are opening up again, they are planning on getting back to those countries. "As a result, we are experiencing high volumes of visa applications coupled with limited appointment availability and stretched visa processing timelines from India," Visa facilitating agency VFS Global spokesperson told Live Mint.

Currently, the agency has been receiving approximately 20,000 applications on a daily basis "which is close to the volumes recorded during pre-pandemic peak season."

Short-staffed embassies

Many embassies in India shut down their visa processing centres temporarily after the COVID-19 aftermath and officials went back to their countries. And now as these offices reopened, the embassies are finding it difficult to bring back officials who were earlier working for them.

In fact, both Danish and German embassies have posted job vacancies for these posts very recently.

Stricter rules

Following the COVID outbreak, some counties have tightened the rule for granting visas. The processing now involves a few more checks, for example, verification of the vaccination certificates.

Is there any solution to this problem?

Hinting there is no immediate solution, VFS Global said, "We have been urging visa customers to apply early to avoid last-minute rush." The agency also said they are unable to provide further details regarding the visa processing timeline as "Information regarding the same is provided by respective client governments on their websites."

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