FAQ: Why Have Visa Centers Reopened Amid International Travel Ban?

Which countries have resumed visa application services? Why have the Visa Centers opened now? All you need to know.

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FAQ
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As countries gear up to lift international travel restrictions, applied in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, Visa Application Centers (VAC) across India are also reopening.

Centres of Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) Global, a market leader, that had been shut to curb the spread of the virus, resumed services on Monday, 6 July.

So, why exactly are these visa centers reopening now? Does this mean we can now apply for visas and visit other countries? Here’s what we need to know:

What is a Visa Application Centre (VAC)?

Visa application centres (VACs) are private companies that have formal contracts with the governments of other countries – where they are authorised to send your visa applications, passport to the visa office of the respective country.

Visa centres are opening... Does that mean international travel restrictions have been lifted?

No, the international travel restriction still remain in place. The Centre has announced that international air travel will remain suspended till 15 July. However, select flights – like Vande Bharat Mission flights – which have prior permission from the government will be allowed to fly.

If international travel is not allowed, why are these visa centers reopening?

These centers are open to perform select services that have been allowed by the various countries/governments.

For example:

  • United Kingdom has allowed passport collection for all visa categories
  • Ireland has allowed the resumption of student visa application
  • Denmark has opened for residence permit, employment, dependents, approval cases
  • South Korea for long-term applications

You can visit the website of a country’s embassy to get more details regarding this.

I had submitted my passport to a visa center before lockdown but have still not got it back. What do I do?

You may now be able to contact/visit the VAC that collected your passport. According to VFS, the status of the passport will first have to be assessed.

If it is with the Embassy or Consulate, the VAC will try and procure it at the earliest. Passports with the VACs will be returned once these centres reopen.

You can check the status of your application online on the website of the VAC you have applied to.

I want to apply for H-1B visa to the US. But the government has suspended it. Can I still apply?

No, this will not be possible as the US government has banned fresh H-1B visas. You will have check on the list of visas that are being processed by different countries and apply only for the same.

I have a valid visa that will expire soon, and the country I’m going to has issued a travel restriction. Can I apply for an extension?

Different countries have different advisories on this. Most countries have imposed travel restrictions and are allowing only citizens and specific permit holders to enter the country, while non-essential travellers are not allowed.

Therefore, if your visa has expired and you are planning a travel once the restriction has been lifted, you will have to apply for a fresh visa.

What if I am already in the foreign country and my visa has expired? Can I apply for extension?

In this case, you are advised to contact your nearest Indian Embassy/Consulate, who will be able to help you out.

I had a valid visa but was not able to visit the country due to travel ban. Will I get a refund?

No, there is no refund on visas that were issued prior to the lockdown period.

Will I need a COVID-19 negative test to apply for visa?

While certain medical tests are mandated by different countries while applying for visa, there is no clarity on COVID-19 test yet. Watch this space for more

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