By Geeta Mohan: Travellers from the United Kingdom are having a difficult time securing visas for India. While most missions across the world have had huge backlogs leading to massive delays after the Covid-19 pandemic shut the world down, India is no exception.
There have been reports that many Brits who applied for a visa to travel to India were forced to cancel their bookings. The Indian High Commission in London has assured resolution of the visa crisis.
In a video statement released on Wednesday, Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Vikram Doraiswami, elaborated the steps being taken by the mission to ease the stress of visa backlogs, which includes the opening of new visa centres in Britain.
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“We understand that there has been difficulty in getting these appointments. We are doing our best to ameliorate the situation,” he said.
“Here is what we are doing: First, we are ensuring that more bookings are released on our online booking service and that these appointment modules are not being misused, which has been the case recently,” he added.
“Second, we are ramping up capacity in partnership with our service provider, VFS. This includes the following steps. First, we are opening a new visa center in Glasgow early next week. We are opening a new one in Central London, hopefully, by the end of the month. Work is underway on that one. And, we are increasing capacities at our existing centers, including to handle and receive applications on Saturdays and afternoons on weekdays as well,” he said.
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Apart from the delays, unscrupulous activities of travel agents and touts have also led to individuals facing difficulties in the processing of their applications. According to reports, the crunch on processing dates available was caused by travel agents block-booking appointments and making it harder for individual applicants to get a visa appointment.
“It has come to our notice that unauthorised agents and individuals are illegally charging fees and collecting India visa applications for submission at VFS Centres, misleading applicants and misrepresenting the services that they can legally provide,” the High Commission’s statement on October 7 said.
The Indian mission is trying to enhance capacity to ease the stress not just on applicants but also on the system in place.
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“The essence of this effort is to ensure that we get up to about 40,000 visa applications per month, which is a doubling of our existing capacity,” said High Commissioner Doraiswami.
“We also hear your concerns with regard to ease of being able to submit applications. We are working on solutions to this with our service provider. As soon as we are able to come back to you, we will have an update on that as well. So, our goal is to be able to ensure that you are able to travel easily with less difficulty, with less effort in getting your paperwork done for the upcoming and ongoing holiday season,” he added.
He ended by seeking a little bit of patience before the situation is normalised. “Thank you for your patience and bear with us till then,” he said.
The visa backlog follows high demand in the wake of the COVID pandemic lockdowns, with many tourists attempting to make up for cancelled or postponed trips to India.
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