How applying for an early visa can save you travel headaches
Do you plan to travel outside the country soon? Well, for new travelers, it is mandatory to have the necessary documents like passport and visa.
However, having a passport will not guarantee you safe passage as the country you are traveling to has allowed your entry, stay and travel outside of its own borders.
Although the process of obtaining a visa can be tedious and expensive with fees of up to Ksh 40,000, it is a necessary document that determines whether your trip will be a success or not.
According to Swiss company VFS Global, the world’s largest specialist in technology outsourcing and services for governments and diplomatic missions, there has been outbound traffic from Kenya as countries open international borders to international visitors. This against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, the severity of which continues to decrease with the increase in vaccination.
The increase in international travel demand is also attributed to the easing of travel restrictions, the resumption of international flights and the reopening of on-campus courses by foreign universities.
Australia, Canada and the Schengen regions are seeing positive trends in volumes of outbound travel requests from Kenya since the start of the year.
For example, application volumes in four months of the year to April 2022 approached the total number of applications last year and almost three times compared to the same period last year, according to VFS Global.
In countries with which Kenya has diplomatic relations, visa applications are accepted up to three months before the date of travel.
Nonetheless, for potential first-time travelers, Hariprasad Viswanathan, VFS Global Head of Sub-Saharan Africa, advises applicants to apply for their visas in advance, as the demand for overseas travel increases during the year in order to avoid delays that could disrupt their travel plans.
“When planning your trips, people always book flights and hotels in advance. We advise applicants to do the same for visas. Given the surge in demand for overseas travel this year and the limited number of available time slots, we encourage our applicants to apply for their visas as soon as possible. Make sure you have all the required documents with you, including a printed version of the checklist, to be submitted with the completed application form,” says Viswanathan.
According to the revised Schengen Visa Code, effective February 2, 2020, you can apply for a Schengen visa up to 6 months before your travel date and have the freedom to travel to all 26 countries that make up the region without a hitch.
Viswanathan adds that, just like applying for an advance visa, applicants should check the validity of their passport before planning an international trip. Many countries require a passport valid for six months after your return date.
In the digital world, most government services have moved online including visa application, which has brought convenience in the travel industry.
If you are planning to travel to another country, the best way is to check the embassy website which provides information on the visa application process. Alternatively, you can choose to use agents who will do this for you, but remember nothing is free!
Although the online visa application process can save you time, applying early will give you plenty of time to organize your documents and benefit from faster processing, such as early appointments with the embassy as you go. as the number of requests increases.
As appointment slots are offered online based on volume of demand and in conjunction with the Embassy’s own internal capacity planning, you are advised to arrive at least 15 minutes early, otherwise you will be rescheduled to a later date which could potentially derail your travel plans.
Beware of fraud!
Often, first-time travelers end up being duped by individuals posing as agents with promises of getting appointment bookings in advance and delivering the document as soon as possible.
To avoid such scenarios, applicants are advised to ensure that they can follow their application process via SMS or email to receive timely updates once the application is submitted.
As visa processing differs from assignment to assignment, VFS Global recommends applicants to check turnaround times before applying.
However, please note that opting for optional value-added services such as Prime Time Services or Form-filling, or any other service does not guarantee a faster or more positive decision from the embassy concerned.
In the wake of the pandemic, premium services such as delivering visas to your doorstep have seen a significant increase this year as more applicants seek the ease and convenience these services offer in planning their their trip, at an additional cost.