Deadline to documents: What you must know about visa application process

Come summers and everyone wants to head overseas for a holiday. But the visa nightmare can completely wreck your holiday plans if you haven’t prepared to apply well in advance. Know about varying visa rules, visa processing times and cost across countries

Namrata Kohli | New Delhi

This summer, India was the third country after China and Turkey in terms of number of Schengen area visa applications, as reported by the European Commission. For foreign travel, if there is one singular thing which is most important it’s your visa- or in simple words, that stamp/endorsement on your passport that you are allowed to enter, leave, or stay for a specified period of time in another country.

For many, the visa process can be plagued with innumerable issues. Says Abheek Anand, a 32-year-old Delhi based entrepreneur who was planning a trip to the US this summer, “Visa applications tend to take a long time to process, often due to high demand and bureaucratic inefficiencies. Many countries require extensive documentation, which can be cumbersome and confusing for us applicants. Moreover, some countries have high rejection rates for visa applications from India, which can be discouraging for travellers.” Another frequent traveller, Mumbai based fashion designer Amita Shroff says that visas have high costs. She says- “Visa fees and associated costs (such as travel to consulates and service fees) can be prohibitively expensive. Getting an appointment for a visa interview can be difficult due to limited slots, especially during peak travel seasons.”

The most important step in foreign travel is to plan to apply for a visa as early as possible. According to Yummi Talwar, Chief Operating Officer – South Asia, VFS Global, a leading visa and consular services outsourcing and technology company, “Planning early for the visa process is vital. The pandemic has changed international travel trends significantly, making early planning essential for a smooth experience. Travellers should apply for visas as soon as possible, as the high demand for travel affects the availability of visa appointments and the speed of visa decisions. Applying early also increases the chances of getting a timely decision. This is very important during the peak travel seasons, when embassies and consulates receive many applications. Therefore, the first and most crucial step is early planning for visas. Early planning gives you adequate time to acquire relevant information regarding visa categories, documents required and the opportunity to book visa appointments well before the travel date to avoid last minute surprises.”

The visa market is a bit complex as every country has its own processing fees, procedures and time taken. Countries with efficient visa and passport processes include the likes of Singapore. Known for its efficient and quick visa processing system. E-visas are available for many nationalities, and the application process is straightforward. New Zealand has a user-friendly online application system for visas and a relatively quick processing time. Canada has a reputation for clear guidelines and a relatively straightforward visa process. The Express Entry system for immigration is also highly regarded. Japan offers a very efficient visa process with a high approval rate for Indian tourists and business travellers.

And then, there are countries where the visa process is particularly challenging. The U.S. visa process is known for its rigorous requirements, long wait times for appointments, and high rejection rates. The UK has a complex visa application process with extensive documentation requirements and high fees. While some countries like Germany are efficient, others within the Schengen Area can have more cumbersome processes and higher rejection rates. The Australian visa process can be lengthy and complex, with stringent requirements and detailed background checks. China requires extensive documentation and has a relatively strict visa issuance process, which can be time-consuming.

As international travel becomes more accessible, it is crucial for Indian citizens to understand the visa application process and requirements for their desired destinations. Says Manoj Dharmani, CEO, DUDigital Global, a company that offers specialized services for administrative tasks related to visa processing, passport management, identity verification, and other citizen services, “From determining the appropriate visa type to gathering the necessary documentation, there are several key factors to consider before embarking on an overseas journey. The first step is to determine the appropriate visa type based on the purpose of the visit. Common visa categories include tourist, business, student, and visit visas. Understanding the specific requirements for each category is essential to ensure a smooth application process. Typical document requirements include a valid passport, recent photographs adhering to visa photo specifications, travel itineraries, hotel bookings, bank statements, income tax returns, employment proof, and potentially a letter of invitation with a copy of the host’s passport for visits to family or friends.”

Visa processing times can vary significantly across countries, influenced by factors such as application volume and seasonal demand. For instance, while a visa for Dubai may be processed within 2-3 days, a visa for Georgia could take up to 5 working days. To avoid delays or rejections, it is crucial to submit applications well in advance of the intended travel dates. Countries requiring visa application at least a month in advance include the US, UK, Schengen Area (e.g., Germany, France, Italy), Canada, Australia, China.

What happens if you have to goto a country in an emergency. Travelers with urgent and last-minute travel plans who need their visa in the shortest possible time can opt for the Priority category of visa. Take the case of 55-year-old Neeta Nair who lost her elder sister staying in the UK and she took the super priority visa from Delhi to the UK. Says Nair- “Luckily UK gives you a visa within 24 hours if you escalate it to the Super Priority category which costs Rs 100,000. And that it will give you within 72 hours if it’s a Priority Visa which costs Rs 50,000. In my case, time was money and the Super Priority visa option was critical in this hour of grief.”

And that there are countries with Visa on arrival (VoA allows travelers to obtain a visa upon entering the destination country, often at the airport or other points of entry) such as Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives, Mauritius, Sri Lanka or Easy eVisa application countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia. These destinations are considered “easy visa” due to their relatively straightforward and quick visa application processes, which can be done online or on arrival, making them attractive for Indian travelers seeking hassle-free travel plans.

Indian travelers are increasingly welcomed across many countries in the global market, enjoying liberalized visa access. Take the case of South Africa. Obtaining a tourist visa for South Africa from India is generally hassle-free. Currently, applicants have the option to apply via VFS. The visa processing time is notably quick, with stamped passports typically available within 7 working days or less from the application date. Says Neliswa Nkani, Hub Head – MEISEA, South African Tourism, “It is worth noting that there is no visa fee for Indian nationals. However, the VFS logistics fee to process visas from Mumbai and Delhi is Rs 2,040, and Rs 2,301 to process visas from Gurgaon, Jaipur, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Pune, Bengaluru, and Goa.” Her advice to Indians applying for a visa to South Africa would be to start the process well in advance and ensure all required documents are in order. Says Nkani- “Begin by visiting the VFS Global website to identify the appropriate visa type for your trip, whether it’s for tourism, business, or another purpose. Gather all necessary documents, such as your passport, travel bookings, and financial statements, and complete the visa application form. Once your documents are prepared, head to the Visa Application Centre (VAC) to submit your application. Along with any applicable fees. No appointment is necessary but be sure to check the VAC’s opening hours. After submitting your application, keep track of its status via email or online using the reference number provided on your VAC receipt. It’s important to ensure that all documents are valid and up-to-date and to be prepared to answer any questions that may arise during the application process. By following these steps and staying organized, you can navigate the visa application process smoothly and efficiently.”

To Be Or Not To Be

Certain categories of individuals face higher rejection rates for tourist visas. These include individuals with criminal records, especially those with serious offenses, as they may be deemed a risk. Unemployed individuals without a stable job or clear financial resources might be seen as potential over-stayers or illegal workers. Young, single applicants without strong ties to their home country may face higher scrutiny due to concerns about their likelihood to return. Additionally, individuals who have previously violated immigration laws, overstayed visas, or had visa applications denied are often viewed with caution, says Manoj Dharmani.

A clean criminal record is crucial, as any history of criminal activity can make you inadmissible depending on the nature and severity of the crime. Compliance with previous immigration laws is necessary; prior violations or visa denials can negatively impact your application.

Individuals who are often granted tourist visas more easily typically include professionals such as doctors, engineers, and IT specialists, as their stable and reputable employment demonstrates financial security and stability. Businesspeople, including business owners and executives who can show significant ties to their home country and sufficient financial resources, are also viewed favourably. Retirees with a stable pension and financial resources, along with a clear travel itinerary, often have high acceptance rates as well.

What should an Indian bear in mind before applying for a visa for any foreign country? Says Shikhar Aggarwal, MD, BLS International, a global outsourcing and technology company that provides visa processing services for various countries around the world -“Ensure you have sufficient funds to cover your travel expenses, including accommodation, transportation, meals, and any other planned activities. Some countries may require proof of financial stability as part of the visa application process. Consider purchasing travel insurance that includes coverage for medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and other unforeseen events. Some countries may require proof of travel insurance as part of the visa application. Familiarize yourself with the laws, customs, and cultural norms of the country you are visiting. Respect local traditions, dress codes, and etiquette to avoid any misunderstandings or cultural faux pas.”

Finally, the decision to grant a tourist visa depends on various factors, including the specific requirements and policies of the destination country, the applicant’s circumstances, and the discretion of visa authorities.


Planning to travel overseas? You need to know the visa fees across key countries, The table below gives the regular Visa fee if you are planning a foreign trip to any of these countries from India:

Country Regular Visa Fee Source
United States $160, ₹13,322 US Embassy in India
United Kingdom £115, ₹12,185 UK Gov Visa and Immigration
Canada CAD $100, ₹6,084 Canada Immigration
Australia AUD $190 ₹10,485 Australian Government
Germany (Schengen) €80, ₹7,212 Schengen Visa Info
France (Schengen) €80, ₹7,212 Schengen Visa Info
Italy (Schengen) €80, ₹7,212 Schengen Visa Info
Singapore SGD $30, ₹1,850 Singapore Immigration
Malaysia MYR 50, ₹884 Malaysia Immigration
Thailand THB 2,000, ₹4,557 Thailand Visa
China ₹2,900 Chinese Visa Application Service Center
Japan ₹500 VFS Global
New Zealand NZD $211, ₹10,745 New Zealand Immigration
United Arab Emirates AED 336 ₹7,617 VFS Global
South Korea KRW 52,382, ₹3,200 Korea Visa Application Center

Source: Business Standard

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