The development of COVID-19 around the world has led to an almost complete halt in global travel. Most countries have issued complete travel bans that restrict all international travel—which has had a dramatic impact on the global tourism industry.
Many travellers are looking for answers regarding visa applications and the likelihood of travel this year. Unfortunately, the ever-shifting fight against the pandemic means that there are no easy answers to these questions. However, these are the likely scenarios that will emerge when the world starts to understand, contain and control the virus.
A European official, speaking to SchengenVisaInfo.com, had this to say about one of the likely scenarios that will occur when borders reopen:
“When the Schengen Borders open up in September, if they do, Schengen Visa applicants may need to submit a Coronavirus test that has resulted negative, taken within the last two weeks prior to the visa application. The traveller may be required to take a new test before travelling to the Schengen area, as to make sure that he/she has not been infected in the meantime,” the source said.
The official also noted that once the COVID-19 vaccine is confirmed and available for all, visa applicants may also be required to be vaccinated in the future, in particular, if the virus remains active.
Jiten Vyas, Regional Group COO at VFS Global, the visa outsourcing and technology services specialist, shared some thoughts about the current state of visa processing.
“Although most governments have suspended travel visa services, customers may still be able to apply for other categories such as long-stay visas or residence permits. At present, the majority of the governments VFS Global serves have suspended applications for all visa categories. To apply for an extension, customers should check if the concerned Visa Application Centre is open in their city/country.”
VFS Global has the following recommendations:
Status of pending applications and getting refunds
Those customers who were issued visas for entry into countries that have now closed their borders may contact the centre or embassy to find out about its validity. In general, for issued visas, fees cannot be refunded, but visas are sometimes valid for several months which can be used for later travel.
If a customer’s visa application is under processing, he or she might still be able to withdraw it and get a refund of the visa fee. However, refund policies vary among governments and are at the sole discretion of the government/embassy/consulate. VFS Global does not decide on visa fee refunds or timeframe.
Getting back your passport submitted before service suspension
At present, our Visa Application Centres are strictly following the instructions of the concerned government and cannot track your application during the assessment process within an embassy or consulate. Our Centre may also be kept open to return passports to customers who have already applied, or for enquiries.
Many countries today are encouraging customers to opt for the optional courier service to get their passports delivered for avoiding unnecessary visits to Visa Application Centres.
Are Residency and Work Permit related applications being accepted?
The case of applying for work and residence permits remains country-specific. Many countries have put in place border control measures, temporarily disallowing certain categories of non-essential travellers to submit visa applications. However, if you already hold a valid work or residence permit, you may still be able to enter some countries, despite entry restrictions.
While all these restrictions might have hampered your immediate travel plans, make sure to use this time to effectively plan for your next family or solo travel when the situation improves.