Countries across the world are gradually removing travel restrictions, and looking to reopen their borders to international travel. However, people who want to travel abroad have numerous concerns about travel documents, and rules and regulations. In order to clear that confusion, VFS Global, the world’s largest visa outsourcing specialist, answers some key questions that you may have about your visa and passport.
What happens to passports which were submitted before the lockdown?
All passports currently held by the Visa Application Centres (VACs) will first be evaluated to see which stage it is at, and then be returned if the client government gives consent to do so. In certain cases, provisions for a courier service to return passports will also be made with the necessary permissions.
Re-opening of our centres? Our operations will only resume based on the directives of the embassies and local governments.— VFS Global (@VFSGlobal) June 8, 2020
Do visit https://t.co/UnZNjnYfmy for any more information regarding our Visa Application Centres across the globe.#StaySafe #TravelAgain pic.twitter.com/kMUhnOwKh7
When will VACs reopen?
The VACs can only reopen if they have permission from the central government and the respective state governments alongside the approval of the relevant embassy or consulate.
What kind of permits are allowed?
Each country has released its own list of categories under which travel is permissible. While places like UK, UAE, Turkey and Belarus have allowed entry under all categories, some others have restrictions that are more specific. For instance, Ireland is accepting visas under student or long-stay categories; Denmark has allowed residence permits and employment-dependent categories; Italy is accepting re-entry visas. Still other countries like Portugal, Norway and South Korea have given permission for long-stay categories only.
Is a VAC operating in my city?
This again depends on permission from the government. While UK and Ireland have allowed VFS to begin operations in 11 major cities across the country, other places have only permitted the Delhi office to reopen as of now. In order to check if there is a VAC operating in your city, visit the official website of VFS Global.
Does having a visa guarantee travel?
No. Air travel is still being largely regulated by government policies all over the world and having a visa does not essentially mean you will be allowed to fly out of the country.
Is a COVID-19 patient allowed to travel?
So far, there has been no specific rules barring a patient from travelling. However, government policies may change and very soon you might have to attach medical history or face other regulations before boarding an international flight. Such decisions are completely controlled by the client country and may vary across governments. You do not need to show medical documents in order to visit a VFS Global Centre.
What happens to a valid visa in case of travel ban?
The best course here is to constantly check the advisories being issued by the respective governments. In case you had a valid visa that expired during this period, you can reapply at the VAC.
Will there be a change in turnaround time?
Turnaround time refers to the total time required to process a visa. While VACs may be operating at a limited staff capacity, the turnaround time shall remain unchanged. On the other hand, fewer appointments may be allotted per day in compliance with the client government’s policies. For example, the UK has decided to operate at BAU status i.e. Business As Usual. This means that all facilities provided by VFS Global for UK will be accessible to anyone visiting the VAC. However, there may be a cap on the number of people allowed to visit per day.
Health Checks Inside the VAC
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It takes about 7-10 days for a VFS center to reopen after getting permission. This is because all application centres are equipped to follow the latest health and safety precautions laid down by the WHO. This includes temperature checks, regular disinfecting of surfaces, compulsory wearing of gloves and masks and frequent use of sanitisers. You will also be able to book appointments and make visa applications online.
Apart from this, services like ‘Visa-At-Your-Doorstep’ will also be made more accessible. Under this provision, a trained visa official from VFS will visit your house to collect the relevant documents and biometrics. After approval, your passport and visa will also be delivered back to your location, thereby ensuring that you do not have to step out. While such services were present before the lockdown as well, they will be made more efficient in order to enforce social distancing norms.
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It is important to remember that this period of reopening is fraught with uncertainties, thereby leading to an increase in the number of cases of fraud. VFS Global recommends that you keep yourself updated with the latest information from the respective government website. In case of fraud, immediately file a report with the police and inform your Visa Application Centre.