‘26 Schengen states may soon offer priority visas in India’
Schengen states, a grouping of 26 European nations, may soon offer priority visas in India. At present, UK offers this service and charges, in addition to the visa fees, almost Rs 90,000 for the “super priority” category (visa decision in a day), and Rs 20,000 for “priority” (visa decision in less than a week). However, UK visa fees are among the highest for all countries in India and the Schengen priority service charges could be much lower.
“A lot of people like businessmen and investment bankers have to travel at very short notice. The UK started the super priority service about a year back. Schengen states are also looking at the same,” said Zubin Karkaria, CEO of VFS Global Group.
“Foreign consulates want to reach out to more and more Indians. They are wooing not just tourists but also other categories. Students from India are a big category, second only to the Chinese for places like UK and Australia,” he said. “Our overall growth in number of visa applications in India is 10% to 15% but the growth in Tier II and III cities is almost double, between 20% and 30%. The growth is such that in peak (travel) times we have had to keep our application centres in Delhi and Mumbai open on weekends, 24 hours a day.”
Karkaria said the concept of holiday has changed in India. “Earlier holiday used to be a luxury, today it is a necessity. Because of job pressure, people need time with family. What used to be a 15-20-day annual vacation is now three to four domestic and international short breaks. Instead of the usual destinations, Indians are now going to places that are not run of the mill like the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Croatia,” he said.
Prague opens up, to offer 500 long-stay visas to Indians
Eastern Europe may be opening up to Indian skilled labour. In a region notoriously averse to migrants, the Czech Republic last week told India it would offer 500 high-skill long-stay visas to Indian professionals from October. This was one of the outcomes of discussions between President Ram Nath Kovind and the Czech leadership during Kovind’s recent visit to the country. The offer is significant because it comes at a time when these countries have been fairly critical of Europe’s current leadership for opening their doors to refugees from the West Asia and north Africa. India and Czech Republic have also begun talks on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement, which is likely between the Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership, centred in Haryana and the Czech government. In the first sign that the two countries may be moving beyond the Tatra trucks scandal, the Czech company signed an exploratory MoU with Bharat Earth Movers Ltd during Kovind’s visit.
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