The Embassy of Switzerland in India has denied reports that it has suspended Schengen visa appointments for Indian tour groups until October due to high volume of applications.
“We have almost 800 daily appointments through the end of September 2023. These include 22 groups,” the mission said in a statement released on Thursday.
Asserting that people-to-people contact is at the core of Swiss-Indian relationship, the Embassy said that it has processed more visa applications in the current year than it did in 2019.
“We have surpassed our pre-pandemic times processing level. From January until June, we handled 129,446 applications, as against 120,071 during the same period in 2019 — a 7.8 per cent increase.”
In addition, it said various measures have been implemented since the beginning of 2023 to further ease the visa application process for Indian applicants.
As per these measures, it would now be possible for the applicants to apply for their visa six months before their date of travel, as against one month in the past.
So, someone wishing to travel in June can already apply for a visa in January.
Further, the Embassy has increased its overall capacity in India. With a new Visa Application Centre (VAC) in Lucknow, there are now 13 VACs all over India, where applications can be submitted.
The mission also informed that at present it takes “no more than 13 working days between the appointment by our partner VFS Global and the Embassy’s decision on the application”.
The statement of clarification came following media reports on Tuesday which said that Indian tour operators were informed by the Swiss embassy to reschedule group trips to allow ample time for visa processing.
“Swiss embassies are currently dealing with a lack of staff,” several media reports had said, citing Simon Bosshart, Head of Markets East at Switzerland Tourism.
A Schengen visa is a short-stay visa granting individuals an opportunity to travel to any member country within the Schengen Area for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days.
One Schengen visa application costs 80 euros or Rs 7,260 in India.
India had the second-highest number of Schengen visa rejections worldwide in 2022, leading to an estimated loss of Rs 87 crore on canceled trips, according to SchengenVisaInfo.com.
Indians spent a total of over Rs 487 crore on Schengen visa applications alone, for 6,71,928 applications in 2022.
Out of Rs 487 crore, more than Rs 87 crore was lost on the 1,21,188 visa applications that were rejected.