Dubai: The travel industry in the UAE is likely to get a boost after a new joint visa application centre for major Schengen countries opens its doors in Dubai today to handle the growing number of visa requests.
Officials from the consulates of France, Germany and Italy yesterday inaugurated the centre, which is equipped to handle more than 60,000 applications a year. It has 17 to 18 counters and is open from 9am to 5pm from Sunday to Thursday.
It is the first of its kind in the Middle East and accepts visa applications to travel to France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Malta and Slovenia.
Officials say the centre will make life easier for UAE nationals and expatriates, as it offers long opening hours, ample parking and spacious facilities. Some European consulates in Dubai are open only between 8am and 11am, offer two or three counters and require applicants to set an appointment for the submission of documents.
French consul-general in Dubai Nada Yafi said that since the processing is now more convenient, the number of visa applications, which accounts for 16,000 a year at the French consulate, will grow.
"It's increasing. Now, I think it will increase more because it will be easier for people to apply and the French presence here is becoming more visible," Yafi told Gulf News.
Johann-Adolf Cohausz, German consul-general, said they expect other Schengen countries to follow suit and join their initiative. "This centre is a first of its kind. Visa applications are accepted for different Schengen countries in the same setting and I can't think of any other metropolitan area in the world that could be more suitable for this than the multi-cultural city of Dubai," he said.
Martin Tscherner, vice-consul at the German consulate in Dubai, said they process more than 40,000 visa requests a year and expect an annual growth of 10 to 12 per cent.
"Before, people sometimes came at six in the morning to be able to reach the counter by 10am, and this is because we only had four or five counters open. Now we have 17 counters open and we have extended the opening hours," he added.
The centre at Jumeirah Palms Residence next to Capitol Hotel on Al Hudaiba Road is run by VFS Global Services, an outsourcing partner to diplomatic missions in many countries.
Mahesh Anchan, VFS Global vice-president for Middle East and North Africa, said they expect to facilitate about 300 visa applications a day during peak periods and about 50 to 60 a day during off-peak.
The centre collects and checks visa applications and forwards the documents to the respective consulates. All decisions on processing and on issuing of visas are taken only by the respective consulates general of the country.
I can't think of no other metropolitan area in the world which could be more suitable for this than the multi-cultural city of Dubai."