Dubai: Visa processing centres in the UAE are expecting to see a surge in applications over the next few weeks when the summer travel rush kicks off.
VFS Global, a privately owned company that facilitates travel permit applications for UAE residents looking to travel to the United Kingdom and other Schengen countries, have advised travellers to start planning soon if they wish to spend their holidays abroad during the summer. They can also opt for premium services at extra cost if they want to avoid the long queues.
“Overall, there has been a steady rise in travel out of the United Arab Emirates. Key reasons for this positive trend are that the Middle East region has always been an important travel hub because of its geographical location and socioeconomic importance,” Vinay Malhotra, COO for the Middle East and South Asia at VFS Global, told Gulf News.
He said the rise in visa applications can be attributed to the fact that there is a strong demand for travel from the UAE to popular destinations like the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and many of the Schengen countries that include travel hotspots like France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland.
Travellers from UAE are also drawn to the idea of exploring emerging and off-beat destinations, including the Nordic countries.
“Moreover, globally, the travel and tourism sector has been growing fast, and that trend is reflected in the visa services industry in the Middle East as well,” said Malhotra.
Considering the volume of applicants in the summer, visa appointments at the centre can take longer than usual, so busy travellers are given the option to avail themselves of more convenient services, such as the one called “doorstep” visa facility.
With the new service, residents don’t need to drive all the way to a VFS processing centre or a foreign consulate, a team will come to them directly to do all the formalities – collect the application papers, fingerprints and photographs- and within days, a visa will be issued.
The first-of-its-kind premium facility started in January 2016 and initially offered only to UK visa applicants, but travellers to other destinations, including Switzerland, Czech Republic and South Africa can now avail themselves of the same service.
Malhotra said other foreign missions are expected to start offering the same service in the coming weeks.
VFS Global is a privately owned firm that facilitates visa applications for mostly Schengen countries as well as the United Kingdom. Through VFS, travellers no longer have to deal directly with foreign consulates, consequently saving them more time and making visa processing more convenient.
“[The doorstep service] offers the ultimate in convenience, giving applicants across the UAE the option to complete their visa application, including biometric enrolment from the comfort of their home, office or any location of choice,” said Malhotra .
“The cost of the service varies depending on the diplomatic mission it is offered for. It is especially beneficial for corporates, large groups of family members or friends, since it gives them the convenience of receiving the service at their doorstep,” Malhotra added.
He said large groups have the added advantage of the service being more viable in terms of cost, which can be customized depending on the location and number of applicants.
The doorstep service is available to individual travellers and groups, such as corporate employees, or families who prefer not to travel to the visa centres to apply.