Getting ready to travel again? Have all your visa related questions answered straight from the experts.

FEATURED INTERVIEW 
Despite being one of the industries hardest hit by COVID-19, the travel and tourism industry is ready to bounce back. Global lockdowns are easing and people are rearing to resume travel for business, study and tourism. But for most of us, before we can even think of hopping onto a flight aborad we need to get our visas in place.
To help us, VINAY MALHOTRA, Regional Group Chief Operating Officer (for South Asia, Middle East & North Africa, and Americas), VFS Global (the world’s largest visa outsourcing and technology service specialist for governments and diplomatic missions) addresses some common questions on the mind of most travel planners.
The following  FAQs are as of 28 July 2020 – rules, regulations and policies relating to the travel sector are changing often, hence please check official travel advisories of the country you are travelling to and respective airline booking portals or contact your trusted travel agent for the most updated information.

Will Visa Application Centres open for appointments once lockdowns lift?

VFS Global does not decide about the re-opening of a Visa Application Centre on its own and operates strictly in accordance with the directives of the central and local government authorities and the diplomatic mission of the country (i.e. Embassy/Consulate) for which a visa is being applied. We strongly recommend that you check the regulations by not only the host government but also that of the destination country you plan to visit. You may visit www.vfsglobal.com or contact your travel agent for details.

In India, as of 28 July 2020, the following Visa Application Centres have re-opened (all openings are subject to local lockdown regulations in the respective cities)* –

Country Visa Categories Cities Restart Date
United Kingdom All visa categories/ passport collection 11 cities: Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Cochin & Hyderabad, Chennai, New Delhi, Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Kolkata 6 July 2020
Ireland Student and long-stay categories 11 cities (same as above for UK) 6 July 2020
Italy Re-Entry Visa Only, Category D New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Bangalore July 2020
Belarus All visa categories New Delhi 1 July 2020
Denmark Residence permit, Employment, Dependents, Approval cases New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore June/July 2020
Norway Residence permit New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore June/July 2020
Germany Category D Visa after approval of submission and prolonging of Visa New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kochi, Mumbai July 2020
Switzerland Category D New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore July 2020
Belgium Category D New Delhi 14 July 2020
Portugal E6 for holders of expired Portuguese residence card, D6 for holders of expired Family Reunification D6 visas New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore June/July 2020
South Korea Long term applications only New Delhi 29 June 2020
Dominican Republic Work/Resident/Business visa New Delhi 29 June 2020
Turkey All visa categories New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad 22 June 2020
UAE (DVPC – eVisas for Emirates passengers only) All visa categories Online 25 June 2020
Poland Category D New Delhi 14 July 2020
Estonia Category D New Delhi 14 July 2020
Croatia Category D New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad 14 July 2020
Malaysia Single-entry visa Mumbai, Chennai 16 July 2020
Luxembourg Category D New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore 03 August 2020
Austria Category D Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore 27 July 2020

*As this list gets updated regularly, please visit the country-specific website on www.vfsglobal.com for the most current information.

 

What happens to my passport that I submitted before services were suspended?

The passport return process is already underway for some countries, based on approvals received from the concerned Embassy/Consulate. Generally, when the Visa Application Centres re-open, VFS Global will evaluate at which stage of assessment each application is (i.e. whether it is still being assessed at the Embassy/Consulate or has been returned to the VFS Global) and initiate the passport return process. We would like to assure our customers that passports that were returned to us from the Embassy/Consulate prior to the lockdown are in safe custody.

Will I be required to submit medical history for visa applications?

VFS Global does not seek a medical report for customers visiting our Centres, although medical reports may be a part of the required documentation for some visa applications (these may or may not be related to COVID-19).

Governments may introduce health screening measures or Covid-19 PCR tests going forward, so make sure you’ve carefully been through the updated document checklist for the country you’re visiting, in case any medical and vaccination histories are required as part of your visa application. Pls visit the country-specific website on www.vfsglobal.com or contact your trusted travel agent for this information.

Can I travel if I have a work or residency permit?

This depends entirely on the country you are travelling to. Several countries have put in place border control measures, temporarily disallowing certain non-essential travellers from submitting visa applications or entering the country even if you hold a valid visa. Make sure you’re checking regulations of not only your government but also that of the country you plan to visit.

What happens to a valid visa if the country in question has restricted/banned travel?

Those whose existing visas have expired, or are expiring soon, can re-apply for a fresh visa when visa operations resume.

Do I get a refund if my visa was already issued but I could not travel?

In general, if a visa has already been issued, the fees cannot be refunded since the entire application process has already been completed. However, some governments may have specific policies on the extension of expired visas, and this varies from country to country. Visas are also sometimes valid for several months and can be used for travel at a later stage.

What are health and safety precautions implemented at the centres?

As part of physical distancing precautions, customers must have a prior appointment (that can be booked online) to visit the Centre. As per guidelines prescribed by the World Health Organization, as well as local authorities across India, customers and employees at Visa Application Centres may be subject to body temperature checks and must wear facemasks for their own protection and that of others.

Other preventive measures are also being maintained at VFS Global Visa Application Centres across India such as disinfecting high-contact surfaces, use of hand sanitizers, and social distancing practices.

When services resume, can one avoid visiting a Visa Application Centre as a physical distancing precaution?

Once services resume, customers who wish to avoid visiting public places can also use our optional services, such as the highly popular Visa At Your Doorstep service for application submission. With this service, trained VFS Global staff will visit the customer’s location of choice (home, office, etc.) to complete the visa application submission process and/or biometric enrolment if needed, while maintaining necessary health precautions.

In India, this service is available for 17 destination countries and will resume after lockdown subject to approvals from the concerned embassy/consulate. Countries for which Visa At Your Doorstep service is available: Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Slovakia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. For details, check www.vfsglobal.com or reach out to your trusted travel agent.

Special incentives are available for travel partners using the Visa At Your Doorstep service. For details, contact your local VFS Global representative.

Regular service customers can also opt for the courier service to get their passports back, for visa services that have re-opened.

Where do I get the latest information on the re-opening of visa services?

VFS Global has set up a dedicated webpage for COVID-19 customer advisories (www.vfsglobal.com/covid-19), that is updated daily and covers visa application processes for the 64 governments we serve worldwide, including all operations in India. To aid customer queries and concerns, an FAQ page here also has a wide variety of questions that customers would like answered.

 

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