Schengen visa demand soars 25% in UAE

Europe is the most visited region by the United Arab Emirates travellers during summer due to its proximity, connectivity and great outdoors. Obtaining a Schengen Visa is an important factor for most Asian expats living in the UAE. In a tête à tête with TRAVTALK, Monaz Billimoria, Regional Head – UAE, VFS Global, shares more on the issue.

Dr. Shehara Rizly

Schengen visa appointments are a great concern this year for the UAE travellers as Eid falls early and then summer. How can VFS help to get the appointments?

Owing to the UAE’s close proximity to Europe, and with Europe being an aspirational destination for travellers across the globe, demand for visas to Schengen countries remains high. The demand for Schengen visas from the UAE has seen a 25 per cent growth in 2023 v/s 2022, and an 18 per cent growth over 2019, which reflects the continued high demand for travel to Europe. As mentioned, visa appointments, processing timelines and decisions on visa applications are the sole prerogative of the respective Embassy/ Consulate. We urge travellers to book their appointments well in advance to avoid any delays.

What is the latest on Schengen visa digitalisation? Do you feel that it will be successful? Are there notable concerns /changes?

We are fully aware the EU’s plans to digitise the visa application process, and as external service provider to virtually all EU and Schengen governments, VFS Global looks forward to work with these governments to support them on their transformation journey although we are given to understand it’s still in the very nascent stages and will take a while to be ready.

What is the key focus of VFS UAE?

A trusted partner to client governments, with an extensive global network and reach, VFS Global is focused on providing exceptional customer service to visa applicants, and ensuring convenient and seamless application submission experience. VFS Global is committed to making people’s cross border mobility simple and convenient through highly secure, reliable, efficient, and innovative technology solutions in visa, passports and consular services.

Would you be able to give an account of the role played by VFS in terms of Schengen visa services?

VFS Global manages non-judgmental and administrative tasks related to applications for visa, passport, and consular services for its client governments, enabling them to focus entirely on the critical assessment task. Our role is limited to only front-end administrative tasks that include collecting the visa application form, checking the documentation as per the check list defined by the government and enrolling biometrics if applicable. VFS Global has no visibility in the decision-making process, timelines and outcome of decision.

How many countries does VFS help to formulate visa applications?

Globally, VFS Global serves 67 client governments. In the UAE, we serve 39 client governments through our network of Visa Application Centres, as well as Premium Application Centre for UK applicants through our tie-up with Radisson Hotels, and Visa At Your Doorstep services for select other Missions.

Could travel agents help/support with the application of Schengen visa? If so, how can they help their clients?

Travel agents remain a key partner in the travel ecosystem, and we are happy to extend assistance or information they may require to help their customers / clients. Please be aware that VFS Global’s role is clear and as per the SLAs with the government we work with, appointment booking is as per the online booking system open to all and document submission has to be done at VFS Global centres.

Does VFS support travel agents to get their client appointments or documents sorted?

Visa appointments, processing timelines and decisions on visa applications are the sole prerogative of the respective Embassy/Consulate. VFS Global only manages the non-judgemental and administrative aspect of the visa application process. Appointments that are available are reflected in real time on our website.

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