Overseas tours get a visa boost

Outbound travel is on the upswing this summer with relaxation in visa norms and reduced wait times. While Sri Lanka and Southeast Asian destinations are witnessing a surge in travellers due to visa relaxations, New Zealand has seen demand pick up following a reduction in processing time from 25 days to 11 days now.

 “Between July and September 2023, we saw a surge in high-risk applications from Indian nationals which led to higher decline rates and slower processing times. During this time the average processing times for a visitor visa from India was 25 weekdays,” said John Gilray, director (visa), New Zealand government’s immigration department.

Gilray said application flows have moderated since then and the quality of visa applications has improved. “Approval rates are up and our processing times have improved since then averaging around 11 weekdays for applications from Indian nationals in recent months,” Gilray said.

Last year New Zealand received 114,500 visitor visa applications from Indians and approved 79,600 of them. The average processing time last year was two weeks for Indian applicants in 2023.

Huge demand

Demand for outbound trips especially those for long haul destinations such as Europe, Australia and New Zealand is 28-32 per cent higher on a y-o-y basis, tour operator Thomas Cook said. Bookings to the US too are showing growth, it added.

“We are witnessing huge demand for Europe and Australia with customers preferring offbeat destinations,” said Guldeep Singh Sahni, co-chairman (outbound travel), FICCI.

Long wait times for visas have been a pain point for Indian travellers. Visa delays have led to cancellations or deferral of trips. Estimated wait time for US tourist or business visa appointments is now lower than 200 days in Delhi and Kolkata but over 400 days in Mumbai and Chennai. Travel agents also complain of long wait time for biometrics appointments for Germany and Italy.

On their part embassies are stepping up efforts by deploying more staff and resources for visa processing US Consulate in Mumbai recently organised a special drive on Saturday this month to screen 1500 visa applications. 

“Our processing time has improved and applicants in Mumbai receive visa within 48 hours after submission. Visa processing has increased by 30 per cent compared to 2022,” said Spain’s consul general Fernando Heredia Noguer. 

Switzerland Embassy in New Delhi said it is well prepared to handle visa applications. “Last year we issued nearly 200,000 visas in India. The processing time remains at 15 calendar days from the successful submission of the visa application. This processing time complies with the rules set out in Schengen framework,” the Swiss embassy said.

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