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Why has Switzerland stopped giving visas to Indian tour groups?

The Local Switzerland
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Why has Switzerland stopped giving visas to Indian tour groups?
Indian tourists have wait a while before coming to Switzerland. Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP

Indians travelling in a group need a tourist visa to enter the Schengen zone, which includes Switzerland. But lack of resources means such trips will have to be delayed.


Swiss tour operators received a message from the Swiss embassy in the Indian capital, New Delhi, notifying them that due to the high volume of visa requests, no more applications for group travel could be accepted until the end of September.

Indian citizens travelling to Europe in groups need a Schengen visa, which allows them to enter Switzerland as well.

However, Simon Bosshart, head of Asian markets at Switzerland Tourism, said the reason for the backlog lies with the embassies of the Schengen countries, whose staff was reduced due to travel restrictions during the Covid pandemic, and never re-hired.

Switzerland, for its part, is “trying very hard to reactivate the visa-issuing structures as quickly as possible,"  Bosshart  said, adding that other Schengen countries are causing the slowdown.

"According to our information, Germany, France, and Italy still have visa applications on the back burner," he said.


Do Indian tourists have a better chance of getting a Schengen visa quicker through the Swiss Embassy?

A number of travellers have tried to do so, even though Switzerland may not their main travel destination — a practice known as 'visa shopping.'

However, this has now resulted in an "unprecedented demand for appointments" at the Swiss Embassy in New Delhi.

"While Switzerland is already processing 94 percent of the visa applications, many other Schengen countries at various [embassy] locations have not yet been able to restore their visa capacities from before Covid," according to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

Beware of illegal visas

Because the demand is currently significantly higher than a timely supply of visas, an active black market has developed a result, where Schengen "visas" can be purchased quickly. 

 Bosshart warned that, in India in particular, some companies, as well as private individuals, reserve the few slots available for issuing visas, and then sell them, for a hefty price, to travel agencies.


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