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Visa applications to beat pre-Covid levels in 2024

By Ishita Ayan Dutt
February 21, 2024 18:32 IST
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VFS Global expects visa applications from India to surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2024 with the easing of appointment availability.

Vishal Jairath, head-South Asia, VFS Global, said during a media interaction that based on indications from the client governments in terms of appointment availability and the resources deployed by them, visa applications would surpass the pre-Covid levels by a healthy margin.

“We have geared up. We have looked at our infrastructure and increased capacity in many locations,” he added.


In 2023, visa application volumes for VFS Global saw a 16 per cent year-on-year (Y-o-Y) growth compared to 2022, taking it to 93 per cent of the pre-pandemic level of 2019.

Jairath pointed out that the number of appointments in 2022 was limited.

“The situation improved in 2023 and we anticipate that in 2024 the situation will improve further in terms of appointment availability.”

The Covid-19 pandemic had created a backlog of visas increasing the wait time for appointments.

For US visa applications it increased to about two years and has now come down to eight-nine months.

For Schengen most appointments were available within a one-week period now and, in some instances, within the next day, Jairath said.

Popular destinations for Indian travellers in 2023 were Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, UK and US.

However, China was yet to achieve the pre-pandemic level of volumes. Jairath attributed it to direct flight connectivity between India and China.

It was available abundantly in 2019, but hasn’t really commenced so far in 2023-24.

“We have seen that the Chinese have made a lot of effort in waiving off the biometric enrolment which they previously had for Indians applying for Chinese visas.”

Also, students studying in Ukraine were travelling to other geographies like Georgia.

So some other markets have opened for student traffic traditionally going to Russia or Ukraine, Jairath said.

A post-pandemic trend seen across sectors is a shift towards premiumisation, including the visa domain. VFS Global saw a five-fold increase in its Visa at Your Doorstep bookings in 2023 compared to 2019.

And Jairath expects the demand for premium services to continue.

VFS Global provides front-end administrative visa services for 52 sovereign governments in India through a network of 560 application centres spread across 19 cities.

Photograph: Reuters

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Ishita Ayan Dutt
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