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Visa: Visa applications from Kolkata reach 85% of pre-Covid times | Kolkata News

KOLKATA: Visa applications for travel abroad from the city have registered a 161% growth in 2022 against the previous year despite a huge drop in applicants to the US due to the inordinately long wait time for a visitor visa appointment slot. VFS Global that handles visa applications for 50 countries in India said visa application volume from Kolkata in 2022 has reached 85% of the pre-pandemic 2019 levels, higher than the 80% level it has clocked nationally. VFS has 567 application centres in 19 Indian cities.

Visa applications from Kol reach 85% of pre-Cov times

Travel agents in Kolkata said the number of visa applications in 2022 would have far exceeded the 2019 level, had the visitors intending to travel to the US been able to get interview slots within a reasonable time. On Wednesday, the appointment wait time for the B1/B2 visa required for visitors was 357 days or nearly a year. Pre-pandemic, around 15-18% of the visa applications in Kolkata were for the US with Bangladesh, Thailand, the UK and Italy being the other major draws. While VFS officials attributed the revival of applications to revenge travel post pandemic, it has also led to a sharp rise in premium services like Visa At Your Doorstep (VAYD) that enables travellers to book the entire visa procedures including biometrics at a location of their choice. The Kolkata office that caters to the Northeast and Odisha as well has seen VAYD increase 2.5-times in 2022 with high network individuals in the city and group travellers elsewhere opting for the service,” said VFS Global chief operating officer (South Asia), Prabuddha Sen. The value-added service costs around Rs 10,000 per person. VFS offers VAYD for 16 countries including Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Slovenia. Travel trade sources said a MICE travel organised by city-based agency had availed of VAYD for 700 people, including former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly last September-October for travel to Switzerland. With the busy summer season looming large, the VFS official urged travellers to apply for visa early to avoid rush closer to the holidays. With nearly 40% of the annual visa applications coming in between April and June, the official said those keen on travelling abroad during summer should apply by February-March as most countries accept applications up to three months prior to the travel date. Schengen countries accept applications up to six months before the travel.