Treat Europeans the same way : The Tribune India

Treat Europeans the same way

Treat Europeans the same way

The VFS Global centre in Jalandhar remains a busy place, especially before the summer vacation. Tribune photo: Malkiat Singh

Sandeep Dikshit

THIS summer has been harrowing and embarrassing for tens of thousands of Indians who wanted to travel to the West. Inordinate visa delays, unresponsive consular staff at the embassy and dodgy travel agents offering a VFS appointment for a consideration (whether they pull it off is not known) have been par for the course for even high net worth individuals like the individual from Chandigarh, who had 40 previous Schengen visas in the past. “It would be a bit humiliating, if it wasn’t comical,” he told an East European diplomat after his visa application had hit a stone wall.

The Foreign Office here says it is the sovereign right of every country to issue visas just like it is India’s prerogative to allot or not give visas. But the MEA’s frequent engagements with embassies as well as foreign ministers during S Jaishankar’s visits abroad indicate that there is a need for tweaking the system for genuine visitors who wish to savour the sights of Europe or the US and return to their motherland. It is not known if the MEA applies reciprocity to countries that leave Indians hanging for their visas.

Frequent travellers reckon that due to the bad apples, visa applications have degenerated into a form-filling project, “which can amount to an inch-thick application, which if successful, results in a visa and a sigh of relief”. Non-receipt of a visa can mean significant financial costs relating to cancellation of plans.

What irks frequent travellers who have been left cooling their heels this time is that there is no functional court of appeal. Applicants for tourist visas who have a large bank balance and several properties in India complain that their requests are lumped and scrutinised with those who have dodgy certificates or whose return credentials are highly suspect.

With per capita income rising, VFS, which receives applications for most embassies, is at a breaking point. Only the US has been upfront about the problem and has frequently highlighted the addition of manpower in the visa section. Most countries appear insensitive to the non-availability of appointments even in non-peak periods. Emails hardly elicit a response but many admit informally that their system is overloaded.

“These issues must be aired and publicised so they cause embarrassment and force introspection among the people concerned. If it takes an average Indian up to two months to obtain a Schengen visa in hand, let’s ensure that Schengen citizens too wait as long to visit India. This negative publicity backed by a resolute posture from the MEA in India should help,” says a harrowed applicant.

The solution may lie in e-visas and 10-year visas for travellers who have got several Schengen visas in the past and have never overstayed.

Tribune Shorts

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