With more and more people travelling abroad for studies, work and leisure, smooth and quick issuance of visas has become crucial. But we have all heard of stories of those travelling abroad, especially to the US, being refused one for reasons beyond their control.
In Union Budget 2014-15, finance minister Arun Jaitely announced that the facility of electronic travel authorisation (e-visa) would be introduced in a phased manner at nine airports in India. This would further facilitate the visa-on-arrival facility, the FM said.
Recently, the French government said it would issue visa to Indian travellers within 48 hours from 2015. At the moment, it takes about 15 days. The UK and Canada have introduced similar initiatives to simplify processing. Since last year, Indian citizens have a visa free or on arrival across 59 countries or territories.
Ease in visa documentation and processing time will provide more opportunities for Indians who are looking for weekend getaways abroad and a long-term visa will encourage repeat travel, considering that Indians are always looking for value, says Mahesh Iyer, chief operating officer (visa and foreign exchange) at Thomas Cook (India).
Let us take a look at how difficult is it to get a visa while travelling abroad and what is required for getting one.
Kinds of visas
Most countries offer student, tourist, visitor, working, dependent (for spouse or children) and business visas. There are other kinds of visas depending on your profession, such as sportsman, journalist, crew, seaman, etc.
The US has different kinds of visas. The type of visa you will need would depend on the purpose of your travel. These include H1 visa for professional jobs; B1 visa for temporary visit for business purpose; B2 for tourists; K1 visa for the fiance or fiancee of a US citizen to enter the US; L1 visa for intra-company transferee (executive, managerial, and specialised personnel continuing employment with international firm or corporation); O1 for persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; P1 for internationally-recognised athlete or member of an internationally-recognised entertainment group and Q1 visa is for participants in an international cultural exchange programme.
Students pursuing full-time academic courses in bachelor, master or doctoral-level programmes must obtain F1 visas, while non-academic (vocational) students are issued M1 visa (spouses of M1 visa could get M2 visa). For participants in exchange or trainee programmes such as university professors, researchers, post-doctoral fellows and trainees, there is the J1 visa. H and L visas require approved petitions from the US Department of Homeland Security before a visa interview can be scheduled.
The spouses of L1 visa holders are issued an L2 visa. L2 visa holders may work in the US but must have employment authorisation from the Department of Homeland Security.
Time taken for issuing visa
The time taken for processing visa differs from country to country. The official maximum processing time for a French visa is 15 days. France comes under A Schengen Area. A Schengen visa has to be obtained from the respective consulate of the country where your main purpose of travel lies. In case of travel to multiple Schengen countries, you must apply to the embassy where you will be staying for the maximum number of days. A Schengen visa can take anywhere from two to 10 days, depending on which country’s consulate or embassy you are applying to.
Another initiative is the recently-launched ‘British Irish Visa Scheme’ between Ireland and the UK, which will start around September-October with Indian and China, says Karan Anand, head (relationships) at Cox Kings. The British Irish Visa Scheme will allow for travel to and around the Common Travel Area on a single visa.
Typically, the UK takes 15 working days for visa processing; Australia takes 15 working days; Switzerland – five working days for Mumbai and six to seven working days for satellite visa application centres. For the United Arab Emirates, the tourist visa can be obtained online through Emirates and Etihad airlines and it takes approximately 72 hours after application.
Canada recently unveiled the CAN+ programme (a visa programme) in India, under which visas will be issued within five days and an approval rate of 95 per cent. The programme is open to Indian nationals who have travelled to Canada or USA in the past 10 years. Currently, Hong Kong, Thailand, Sri Lanka (tourist visa only), Malaysia, Kenya, Indonesia, Mauritius, Seychelles and Fiji offer visa on arrival.
Why your visa could get rejected
According to Anand of Cox Kings, your visa could get rejected if the documents are incomplete and if you have not disclosed information truthfully. Sometimes, it could be for a simple reason such as passport expiry.
“Check the expiration date on your passport carefully before applying for a visa. Entry into most countries for a short-term tourism or business trip requires that your passport be valid for at least three months beyond your intended date of departure. We recommend that your passport have at least six months of validity whenever you travel abroad to avoid unintended travel disruptions,” says Anand.
Travellers must also have a justifiable reason for their travel, proof of sufficient resources to support themselves during the stay, and compliance with any other entry requirements for each country they will visit or transit. The customer profile, overstay in any countries, individual travellers less than 30 years of age or potential immigrants according to the assessment of the consular authorities are some of the other reasons why your visa could get rejected, says Iyer.
While it varies from country to country, the basic requirement of documentation includes passports, covering letters (from employers), salary slips, bank statements with income-tax return forms, invitation letter, air tickets, hotel confirmation and insurance.
The visa fee can vary from no charge to Rs 63,000 for a business or tourist visa. Visa for work-permit might cost much more. For Australia, the charges could start from Rs 7,700; Rs 9,616 for the US; Rs 8,715 for the UK; Rs 5,100 for Switzerland; Rs 4,900 for Germany; Rs 4,086 Singapore; and upwards of Rs 1,000 for Malaysia.
No visa if no valid reason to travel