Lockdowns currently seem to be off the agenda for most of the world, at least for the time being, and countries, businesses and individuals are adapting to a new environment and ways of working, with travel back on the agenda for some.
The EU doors are firmly open to business travelers once again. However, in addition to the increasingly chaotic scenes at airports, this increased travel confidence means that, consular posts and visa centres worldwide have seen a dramatic increase in the number of enquires and applications for foreign nationals requiring an entry visa for short stay purposes. Whether for business or tourism purposes sheer volume means that the time required to obtain a visa is adversely affected.
For those, 26 European countries in the Schengen Area, the Schengen Visa applies here. For those non-Schengen countries, for example Cyprus or Ireland, a national short stay visitor visa will be required in advance of travel. Although British citizens do not require a Schengen Visa, British nationals, for whom pre Brexit EU travel was a breeze, this is an additional complication, as time spent in the Schengen Area is limited to 90 days in any 180 day period.
In most cases, to apply for the visa, the applicant will need to appear in person to provide biometric data when submitting the application for which an appointment needs to be secured in advance. Appointments generally must be booked via an online appointment booking system. Depending upon the country concerned, this may only be possible after the completion of an online application form.
Due to the current high demand, appointments are proving difficult to secure and waiting times are lengthy; some 2 months in cases. Quite often the booking systems show “No appointment slots are currently available”. When this occurs, applicants are encouraged to check the calendar several times a day, every day, until an appointment becomes available. This process can be time consuming and especially if data needs to be entered before gaining access to the calendar.
For those consulates or visa centres that allow an appointment to be made in advance of completing the visa application form, this makes planning a little easier! As the visit to the required country of destination can be arranged around the appointment date to submit the application and the application processing time. Processing times are generally in the region of 3 to 15 working days.
In circumstances where an online form must be submitted first, timing can be a real issue. The online form must be submitted to generate a unique application reference number. With this reference number, the applicant can proceed to book any available appointment. However, the next appointment may well be after the intended date of travel (information which one must include on the form and so the applicant is back to square one).
Although not ideal, or applicable in some cases, given the current desire and need to travel, businesses and applicants are encouraged to begin preparing for the visa process at least 3 months in advance. Furthermore, the summer holiday season will soon be upon us, which often has an impact on this process, as tourist visas will also be in high demand.
Kerry Hough, Global Immigration Manager DDI: 020 7317 6754 E-mail: [email protected]