Things are moving fast in the world of European visa and migration policy, adapting to current times and needs. After announcing the new ETIAS visa waiver program (expected to come into full effect starting from 2021), European countries are also updating the current regulations for the Schengen visa, a single permit that allows movement within the Schengen territory without having to apply for different visas for different nations.
India is one of the top volume countries when it comes to the number of citizens who have applied for Schengen visas in recent years. As many Indian nationals may need to travel to Europe urgently for business or personal reasons, the Schengen European countries are considering implementing a program of urgent Schengen visas for Indian passport holders. Similar initiatives have already been launched in the past by other countries in the area.
How Can Indians Apply for a Schengen Visa?
Schengen visas are issued to citizens of those countries who don’t have agreements in place allowing them to enjoy visa-free status with the Schengen nations — like in the case of India. This means that Indians cannot, at the present time, travel to Europe without first applying for an appropriate visa. However, there are several types of Schengen visas Indian travelers are eligible to apply for.
The Schengen visa requirements for Indians vary depending on the type of visa you wish to apply for and your specific circumstances (meaning, for example, the length and purpose of your intended stay). Typically, Indian applicants are asked to complete an application form and submit supporting documents such as their passport, a recent photo, flights and/ or hotel reservations, and proof of medical insurance and sufficient financial means.
Embassies and consulates of Schengen countries will be able to help Indians who wish to travel to Europe and provide them with more information.
Schengen Visa Waiting Times for Indians
Europe advises Indian travelers to apply well in advance for a Schengen visa. It’s possible that the application in itself may take a limited time to complete (this will depend on the type of visa you decide to apply for), especially if the applicant has all the supporting documents at hand.
However, processing times for Schengen visas are usually between 15 to 30 business days. European authorities suggest that applicants should apply 15 days prior to their intended departure date at the very least.
That can be too long of a wait for many. There are several traveler categories that could benefit from a speedier Schengen visa approval time — from people who urgently need to visit their family members in Europe or businessmen and women who are asked to travel for last-minute important meetings. In short, European governments realize that modern life requires the visa policies and regulations to be updated.
Special Urgent Visas for India: Processing Times
That’s why many may consider issuing urgent priority Schengen visas to Indian travelers in the near future — as reported by the Indian third-largest newspaper, Times of India.
It wouldn’t be the first time — France has already cut processing times for visas for Indian nationals down to 48 hours as of 2015. In the meanwhile, the UK implemented a new priority visa program for Indians.
The British system now allows Indians to apply for a Priority or Super Priority permit in order to travel urgently to the UK. A normal visa request from India can take up to 3 weeks to be processed by the British authorities, the Priority visa up to a week, and the Super Priority application is designed to be reviewed within 24 hours from submission.
These urgent visas cost an extra fee (from INR 20,000 to INR 90,000) and that could be expected of urgent Schengen visas too — however, no comments have been made by the European authorities on the subject yet.
What Countries Can I Visit with an Urgent Schengen visa?
No European country has made an official announcement regarding the launch of new priority Schengen visas just yet. This means that as of December 2019, it cannot be confirmed exactly which countries will the urgent visas apply to.
However, valid Schengen visas grant freedom of movement within the Schengen territory. In fact, the Schengen area was originally founded with the precise intent to facilitate the movements of people and goods within the region and eliminate hard borders between Schengen nations.
Schengen visas also give the right to enter all the EFTA Schengen countries and there are special visa waiver agreements in place between Schengen and non-Schengen EU countries that may allow Schengen visa holders to visit certain non-Schengen nations and vice-versa in specific circumstances.
Therefore, although nothing is official just yet, the new urgent Schengen visas may allow the holder to travel freely within the Schengen area for the entire validity of their urgent European travel permit.
Indian Travelers to Europe in Numbers
It is not surprising that the UK and Schengen countries have been taking steps to make traveling easier for Indian citizens. Indian arrivals have been consistently on the rise with Indians being near the top of the list when it comes to the origin of the travelers who complete an application for a Schengen visa each year.
In fact, almost a million Indians applied for a Schengen travel permit in 2018 (a number that has almost doubled since the 650,000 applications of 2015).