There appears to be a huge backlog for visa applications and appointments for the US as well, they said.
“We have spoken to VFS, the embassies, and the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and it is becoming a huge challenge. We will officially write to all European countries on the matter,” said Jyoti Mayal, president of TAAI. “We are hearing countries such as Greece have not returned traveller passports for over two months. There is a huge pending demand for the US as well. The situation is getting worse and this is the peak summer tourist season.”
A spokesperson for VFS Global said the company is experiencing “high volumes” of visa applications coupled with “limited” appointment availability and stretched visa processing timelines from India.
“On an average, VFS Global is receiving approximately 20,000 applications from India in a day, which is close to the volumes recorded during pre-pandemic peak season,” the spokesperson said. “VFS Global manages only the administrative and non-judgmental aspects of the visa application process and is adequately staffed to process applications in one business day.”
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The spokesperson said information on visa decision processing timelines is provided by the client governments on their websites. “VFS Global stays committed to work with the client governments to increase capacity and to cater to the ever-growing demand for outbound travel from India,” the spokesperson said.
Travel platforms said they have been engaged with embassies and consulates on the matter but the discussions have not yielded any “concrete results”. “We have been told that they do not have the bandwidth to assist any further, given the surge in applications. Appointment dates are getting pushed further,” an executive familiar with the matter said.
Greek diplomatic sources in Athens said it is true that there is a ‘very high’ demand for visas to Greece from Indian citizens, particularly in comparison with last year, when there was only a small number of visa applications due to the Covid-19 travel restrictions.
“This sharp increase is forming a rather demanding environment for the Consular services of Greece as well as other EU member-states and this is the main reason for any delays in processing the applications.To face this situation, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already increased the staff of the embassy in New Delhi,” a source said.
“By increasing the staff, we hope that the issue will be properly addressed, since Greece attaches great importance to tourist flows from India, in the context of the excellent relations between our two countries,” the source added.
Rajiv Mehra, president of Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), said while the current period seems like a “nightmare” for those wanting to travel overseas, he is hopeful the situation will get resolved in the next two to three months.
“The primary issue is these embassies don’t have enough staff members. Verification of new staff members also takes time, and we are hearing that the new recruits are now undergoing training,” he said. “Destinations such as Thailand, Singapore, Dubai and Australia are faring fine. People planning to travel to these markets are getting their visas on time.
“But, travellers to the UK, US, Canada and other European countries are the worst affected. Regular tourist visas for countries like the UK are taking over 45 days. Wherever we see some scope of getting an early visa for some country, we are prioritising applying to that country first and are changing itineraries accordingly. Embassies are not openly admitting but staff shortage is the main issue here,” he said.
The embassy of Denmark in New Delhi announced last week that due to shortage of staff, absence and an unforeseen increase in the number of applications, it is suspending all new appointments at VFS.
From July 1 and until further notice, no appointment slots will be available at VFS, the embassy said.
Email queries sent to the embassies of France and the US remained unanswered till as of press time.
ET had reported on May 26 that scores of Indian travellers are finding their European travel plans stuck due to delay in appointment dates and long visa processing time at certain Schengen commissions. Visas for the US and Canada would also take time, they had said.