UAE holidays: Schengen visa application likely to be digitised; residents welcome hassle-free travel to EU

While tour operators are still waiting for more details on how the process will be rolled out, they are optimistic about the change



by

Lamya Tawfik

Published: Tue 7 Feb 2023, 4:51 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Feb 2023, 7:13 AM

UAE residents wishing to travel to Schengen countries may not have to wait for appointments, stand in a queue or submit their passports to process their visas in the near future. As per a report, travellers to the 27 EU countries may soon be able to apply for their visa online and plans to digitalise the process are underway.

Residents and travel agencies in the Emirates are optimistic and excited about the new, hassle-free digitisation process of the Schengen visas.

According to an article published last week in Schengen Visa Info, a report which seeks to modernise the visa application process for Schengen areas by substituting physical applications and visa stickers with a digital process was adopted by members of the EU parliament.

The portal said that the report was adopted with 34 votes in favour, five against and 20 abstentions and that negotiations on the final details would begin once there are no objections when the EU parliament announces the interinstitutional negotiations on the file.

In a statement about the digitisation of the application process, VFS Global said, “We are fully aware that the EU plans to digitise the visa application process, and as an 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.”

While they are still waiting for more details on how the digitisation process will be rolled out, the platform and other logistical details, the tour operators who spoke to Khaleej Times are optimistic.

Commenting on the decision, Gautam Bajaj, Managing Director at Turtle inbound tour operator, said that it is a great step towards promoting Europe as a destination here.

“It’s going to be hassle-free as it’s sometimes not easy to get an appointment for the visa application. At times you have to stand in a queue to submit your documents,” he said.

Giving in the passport and waiting for the visa stamp is also an inconvenience, explained Gautam, one that he personally experienced. “I applied for the Schengen visa to go to Switzerland, and while waiting for my passport, I needed to travel to the UK, and I couldn’t,” he said. By applying digitally, one can apply for more than one visa and still have their passport, he explained. “Digitalization will make life easy,” he said.

Many people wanting to travel to Schengen countries sometimes end up changing their plans because they can’t find appointments. Especially those who are late planners, he said.

Saad Khan, Technology Business Partner, AlCabana Travels, said that many countries are already processing visas online and that the EU doing that is a great step. He also said that keeping one’s own passport is an advantage. “Not having your passport stuck with an embassy until the application is approved or rejected is less of a hassle,” he said, adding that nearly 15-20% of their business is for travellers going to Schengen states.

He said that once it is rolled out, people will be more inclined to travel to the EU. With summer around the corner, applying for visas online will be a great step, he said.

UAE residents have recently told Khaleej Times about the difficulties they have been facing when it came to finalising their holiday plans for the upcoming breaks due to not finding appointment slots for their visa applications.

The possibility of going digital is one that is much welcomed by Pakistani national Arsh Azim. “Applying for a visa is a lot of work. You have to book, wait, get an appointment, stand for 2-3 hours and then if a document is missing, you have to go and come back. It’s a lot of hassle,” she said.

With a digital process and a simple online checklist, this could save a lot of time, she said. “Leaving the passport on hold till the visa is issued is also a problem,” added Arsh.

Lina El Saheb, a Jordanian UAE resident, said that she has only been to the EU once and that the process was lengthy, especially waiting for an appointment. “My daughters are studying in the Netherlands, and I’m planning to visit them soon. Thinking about whether or not I will get my appointment in time for my travel is a big burden. You go through the process and are unsure when it will finish. Everything is so grey,” she said.

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