Outbound travel is picking up – here are some need-to-know Visa FAQs

Some of the key visa application trends VFS Global, the world’s largest visa outsourcing and technology service specialist for governments & their diplomatic missions worldwide, has observed this year in South Africa are as follows:

·       Application volumes from Jan to Apr 22 have neared the total application count for the year 2021

·       Application volumes in Jan to Apr 22 period are nearly six times more in comparison to the same period last year

* * Volumes in 2021 were significantly less as many international borders were closed with pandemic-induced travel restrictions along with the nationwide lockdown.

VFS Global services 18 governments in South Africa through the Application Centres across 11 locations.

With most countries accepting visa applications up to 90 days (3 months) before the date of travel, applicants need to apply for their visa’s way in advance, especially during this period when outbound travel demand is increasing. According to the revised Schengen Visa Code, effective 02 February 2020, you can apply for a Schengen visa up to 6 months before your date of travel.

Elaborating on this important point of applying in advance to beat the peak, Mr. Hariprasad Viswanathan, Head – Sub Saharan Africa at VFS Global, said “When planning your travels, people always book flights and hotels in advance. We advise applicants to do the same for visas. Seeing the surge in demand for outbound travel this year and with limited appointment slots available, we encourage our applicants to apply for their visas as early as possible. Be sure to carry all the requisite documentation, including a printout of the checklist, to submit along with the duly filled application form.” A checklist of the documentation required for visa applications for each country served by VFS Global is available on our website (www.vfsglobal.com).

Just like applying for a visa in advance, it is recommended that applicants must check their passport’s validity before planning an international trip. Many countries require a valid passport six months beyond your return date. Keeping such requirements in mind, VFS Global has listed a series of common queries so that applicants can beat the peak and travel with ease:

·       What are the typical turnaround timelines for visas?

Please be advised that the visa processing timelines vary country-wise.  For the understanding of our applicants, the respective country specific websites provide the information required to apply for your visa well in advance. We would like to caution applicants that in this period of increased outbound travel demand, visa processing could take longer than anticipated. Hence we recommend that applicants must apply early.

·       What is VFS Global’s role in the visa process?

VFS Global manages non-judgmental and administrative tasks related to applications for visas, passport and consular, identity and citizen services for governments. This allows diplomatic missions (i.e., embassies/consulates) to effectively manage their time and resources and focus on the critical task of assessing visa applications and making decisions.

·       What is the appointment allotment process at VFS Global?

Appointment slots are offered online based on the volume of demand or forecast, and in conjunction with the Embassy’s own internal capacity planning. Once scheduled, we highly recommend applicants to be at the Centre 15 minutes prior the appointed time to avoid missing your slot.

We strongly advise all applicants to be careful of touts and fraudulent parties who falsely promise early appointment bookings in exchange for payment.

·       How do I track the status of my application?

Once your application is submitted, you can opt for the SMS service, and receive timely updates on your application’s progress through VFS Global’s online tracking service. The status will be updated as soon as your passport is ready for collection/delivery. Please note that we cannot track your application during the assessment process within an Embassy or Consulate.

·       Can VFS Global offer me advice and guidance on visa categories and vaccination?

No, we do not provide advice or guidance on visa category or any other visa requirement that the applicants may need nor do we comment on vaccine requirements. All travellers are requested to check the destination/transit country guidelines for the same.

·       Can I expedite the process? Does availing of any of the value-added services guarantee a faster visa outcome?

The time taken for visa processing differs with each mission. We recommend you check the turnaround timelines before applying. Opting for any optional, value-added services (such as Prime Time Services or Form-filling, or any other service) does not guarantee a quicker or more positive decision by the concerned Embassy/Consulate.

On the other hand, these premium services like Visa at your doorstep have seen a significant increase this year as more and more applicants seek ease and convenience these services offer in their travel planning, at an additional cost.