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Schengen nations' joint visa centre in ME soon

By Preeti Kannan (Our staff reporter) / 30 March 2008

DUBAI — Three Schengen member-countries will soon set up a joint visa application centre (VAC) for the first time in the Middle East to handle the increasing number of UAE residents travelling to Europe.

The consulates of France, Germany and the Netherlands in Dubai are coming together to set up the visa centre on Al Mina Road in Dubai this May to process applications from Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

Officials say the centre, to be outsourced to VFS Global, could handle well over 60,000 visa applications each year. VFS will collect applications, check them and forward them to the respective consulates.

The centre will also arrange interview appointments for applicants with the individual consulates and return the passport after completion of the visa process.

The procedures and the time taken to process a visa would remain the same and could take anywhere between 24 hours and two weeks, depending on the type of visa and nationality of the applicant.

Martin Tscherner, Vice-Consul at the German Consulate in Dubai, told KT, "The joint visa centre will greatly facilitate the visa issuance procedure for the applicants.

"The centre will have long opening hours, ample parking and better facilities. Our current confined office space and our staff resources do not allow us to offer this kind of service in our consulates.

"The coming months are always our busiest as many people are looking to leave the country for the summer."

"It is in the interest of Schengen countries to use resources sparingly and it is also a political signal to the world that Schengen members are willing to cooperate," explained Nada Yafi, French Consul-General in Dubai.

She noted that working longer hours would mean that applicants could submit applications any time from morning to evening, unlike now where consulates accept forms only for a few hours in the morning.

"We have more time to work on applications. It would also make it easier for potential travellers," she added.

In Dubai, the Netherlands consulate processes visas for Belgium and Luxembourg, while Germany represents Latvia and Slovenia.

Though the new centre will be a common point for visas to these different Schengen countries, the decision to issue visas will remain with individual consulates. Ilona Tinus, Dutch Vice-Consul in Dubai, said, "Dubai is pretty booming and we have seen an increase in our applications over the past few years. "This centre would help handle the increasing numbers. Other Schengen countries are also welcome to join us."

Sources say that other member-countries, such as Italy and Switzerland, too, could use the services of the new centre.  

As per Schengen rules, the applicant must first identify which Schengen country is the main destination and that would determine which embassy or the consulate the traveller should approach for the visa.

If the main destination cannot be determined, the traveller should file the visa application at the embassy or consulate of the Schengen country of first entry.
 
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