Delay in obtaining visas for the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia have obligated vacationers to change or cancel their plans at the last minute. As a result, most tourists now prefer hassle-free destinations.
Thousands of people planning to apply for US visitor visas have been put off by unusually long appointment wait times. According to the US State Department website, the average wait time in India is about one and a half years, which means that those who apply now will be able to get an appointment for March-April 2024.
According to leading travel agents, visa applications and processing are taking a long time for several other countries, including Schengen countries, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
The majority of European embassies do not even offer visa appointments. Sweden is one of the few countries that offers appointments. Appointments for a Swiss visa are opening towards the end of September. For Austrian visas, VFS offers a visa-at-home service (for an extra charge).
The longest appointment wait time is for a US visitor visa.
Individuals whose visas are approved are granted a 10-year multiple entry visa. This is a big plus for the United States B-1/B-2 Visa (Visitor Visa).
Effects Caused by Visa Processing Delays
Many travelers are forced to change their plans at the last minute due to endless delays in Visa processing. For example, a family planning to visit London this month was forced to travel to Dubai after realizing that there appears to be no way to obtain a UK Visa in such a short period.
The United Kingdom is not the only one. Many students are traveling to the United States, Canada, and Australia for college sessions, which will resume in-person classes after nearly two years. Flights are all booked because families are traveling together.
People who want to visit Australia have changed their minds after learning about visa delays.
When international restrictions were lifted during summer vacations, there seemed to be a rush for visas to popular vacation destinations.
According to reports, a month ago, VFS Global (Visa Facilitation Services Global) was receiving approximately 20,000 applications per day from India, which is comparable to the volumes seen during the pre-pandemic peak season.
The visa processing time in the United Kingdom has increased from four to ten weeks. The Danish Embassy announced in May that applications for short-stay visas and residence permits would be temporarily suspended.
According to reports, in-person visa appointment slots in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai are completely booked until April 2023.
Last week, Britain’s high commissioner apologized for visa delays and advised people not to buy plane tickets until their visas have arrived. They are currently focusing on expediting student visas, as many countries anticipate an unprecedented number of Indian students enrolling in their universities this fall.
While there is a clear delay in processing tourist visas for the United States, Australia, and Canada, there is considerable uncertainty in obtaining Schengen visas on time.
People had booked tickets assuming that a Schengen visa would not take as long as an Australian or Canadian visa. But they were mistaken. At the moment, the estimated waiting time for visas is three to ten weeks.
There has been an increase in travel demand and visa applications in India after the pandemic. Foreign missions that sent staffers home during Covid-19 have yet to increase manpower, causing massive delays in visa processing.
What Steps are Being Taken by the Embassies to Reduce Visa Processing Delay Issues?
According to a US embassy spokesperson, all efforts are being made to reduce the waiting period, including increasing consular staffing and prioritizing specific visa types.
“The U.S. Department of State is committed to facilitating legitimate travel to the United States. It is reducing appointment wait times in all visa classes as quickly as possible throughout the world. After a near-complete shutdown and freezing of resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, visa processing is resuming,” he said.
The US government is prioritizing national interest and repeat travel (for applicants who have previously held a US visa), which may result in a longer wait time for some visitors applying for their first visitor visa. Students, temporary agricultural workers, other workers, and key business travelers are examples of priority groups.
Wait times and backlogs are being reduced by actively addressing consular staffing gaps created by the pandemic, including onboarding and training new employees. The Department of State has more than doubled the number of US consular officers hired this fiscal year compared to last. Newly trained employees are making their way to overseas consular adjudicator positions, including in India.
According to a spokesperson for the British High Commission, visas are being granted at an increased rate despite the delay due to an increase in applications. They are currently seeing a high demand for visit visas as they all resume international travel after the pandemic.
The UK remains a popular destination for Indian nationals, and in the aftermath of the pandemic, they have seen the most significant increase in demand for visitor visas from India. According to data released earlier this year, over 106,000 visitor visas were granted to Indian nationals between April 2021 and March 2022, representing a 328% increase over the previous year.
According to a spokesperson for the Canadian High Commission, “despite the pandemic, the government of Canada was still able to make over 500,000 (5 lakh) decisions and welcomed over 405,000 new permanent residents in 2021, which is the greatest number of newcomers in a year in Canadian history. About 32% of those were Indian nationals.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) received approximately 123,500 study permit applications from Indian residents in the first five months of 2022, 55% more than what was received in the same period in 2019,” the spokesperson added.
In conclusion, to avoid disappointment, plan your vacations and submit visa applications well in advance, allowing for a few extra weeks. It is crucial to consider the availability of appointment slots because it can sometimes take longer than the processing time.
To ensure that the visa delay/cancellation does not drain your bank account, avoid booking flights and hotels until the visa is received, or look for refundable options.