Despite obstacles in obtaining visas for certain countries, the company observes a growing demand for international travel.

In 2023, VFS Global, the front-facing administrative entity for visas to 67 countries, experienced a 16% year-on-year increase in visa applications in India.

Indians gearing up for summer travel to Europe could experience shorter wait times at visa centers this year. Visa services provider VFS Global anticipates improved processing times for foreign destinations, thanks to client governments deploying extra staff to manage the influx of visa applications.

Vishal Jairath, head of South Asia at VFS Global, shared that the Swiss authorities have increased appointment availability by 25%. Previously, appointments were clustered within 2-3 months, but now they are distributed throughout the entire year. Additionally, Austria has expressed its intention to boost appointment numbers and expedite processing times.

“The UK offers a priority service exclusively for its applicants. Canada is well-prepared for visa processing. Similarly, in the case of the US, we’ve observed a significant reduction in appointment wait times, which previously stretched to two years; now, it stands at 8-9 months. Moreover, we anticipate further improvements throughout 2024,” Jairath commented.

The international air travel ban spanning two years halted visa operations, leading to staffing shortages upon the lifting of restrictions in March 2022. Consequently, a significant backlog of visa applications ensued, with wait times exceeding 1,000 days for US visa applications.

“In 2024, numerous client governments have informed us of their employment of additional local personnel or the inclusion of expatriate staff. They are now significantly more prepared. This enhanced readiness is expected to result in a greater proportion of appointments being made available or planned for the year 2024,” he further explained.

Despite encountering obstacles in obtaining visas for travel to certain countries, the company persists in witnessing a surge in demand for international travel.

In 2023, VFS Global, the agency responsible for front-facing administrative tasks for visas to 67 countries, witnessed a 16% increase in visa applications in India compared to the previous year. Consequently, the volume of visa applications reached 93% of the pre-pandemic levels recorded in 2019.

“We anticipate exceeding pre-COVID visa application volumes this year, with early indicators showing promising signs. Thus far, visa applications for summer travel have surpassed last year’s figures at this time,” stated Jairath.

According to VFS Global data, visa applications revealed significant interest in destinations such as the US, the UK, and Canada. Additionally, travelers from India showed notable enthusiasm for countries including China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, and Switzerland.

Alongside a continued enthusiasm for international travel, VFS Global observes a growing trend where travelers increasingly favor personalized services. This shift is driven by greater disposable income and a heightened emphasis on safety and comfort.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has made this trend more pronounced. Consequently, VFS Global witnessed a fivefold increase in demand for its visa at your doorstep service facility in 2023 compared to 2019, along with a 4% growth since 2022. The surge in demand also prompted the company to expand its premium lounge count from 14 to 34 by early 2023.

“We’ve had to enlarge our application center, particularly our premium lounges, due to the increasingly unmanageable situation,” he explained.

With increasing demand and an improving economy in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, the company is considering expanding its reach. Recently, after a gap of 10 years, VFS Global inaugurated its newest center in Lucknow.

“We currently manage a compact center spanning 3,500 square feet in Jaipur, which is undergoing expansion to accommodate 18,000 square feet,” he elaborated. “We’ve proactively contacted all client governments, extending invitations for representation in the expanded facility.”

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