Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Schengen Visa Problems Cause Concerns for Moroccans

Médias24 reports on the problems for applicants seeking an appointment to file a French, Spanish or Italian Schengen visa application at the French TLS Contact or Spanish at BLS International, the organisations who manage the visas.

The result of the Medias24 investigation shows that no appointment was possible in summer to apply for a visa to Italy, and only some possibilities in late August or early September for France and a minimum of 6 months waiting for an application for a Spanish visa.

Moroccans who had planned to spend their holidays in one of these three countries during the months of June, July or August have no chance of arriving there if they do not already have their visas.

The management of both providers (TLS and BLS) refused to comment on the situation but according to close sources waiting times were now between 3 and 4 months (May to September).

Insufficient consular processing capacity is to blame.

It is the limited capacity of final processing of the consulates which is at the origin of the blockage. "In fact , the size of the TLS and BLS reception centres makes it possible to process many more requests than they currently do (double to triple).

"The real problem is that the French, Spanish and Italian consulates, which are the real decision-makers for the granting of visas, have limited human and material capacities that do not follow the demand and the reception possibilities of BLS and TLS" , says a source close to the subcontractors.

The consulates in question "regularly open slots of appointments allowing the applicants to obtain a date for an appointment any short".

Information verified by Medias24 states that consular services in Spain open each end of the month (the last was on April 30) for only an hour to distribute appointments to applicants on the long waiting list.

The France-Visas website invites applicants to complete a form, a necessary step before being granted an  appointment, between 9pm and 8 in the morning .

Candidates for Spanish visas try their luck at the French Consulate

According to a French diplomatic source, the lengthening of the deadlines for filing a French visa application is explained by the strong summer demand but also and especially by a growing number of Moroccans who want to spend their holidays in Spain.

"Knowing that it takes more than 6 months to get an appointment at BLS processing Spanish visa applications, applicants switch their demand to the French consulates.

"Considering that waiting times are too long and that they will not have their visa in time to spend a summer vacation in Spain, Moroccans therefore apply to TLS for a French Schengen visa that will allow to visit the Iberian neighbour.

"In this way, they take the place of other applicants by creating an overload of work to the French consular services and by penalising legitimate candidates". European legislation foresees that the persons having obtained a French visa and then used it for other European destinations, before a French one, will see their next application for a French visa refused.

A subcontractor like TLS receives 3,000 requests a day in Morocco and that this capacity reaches 3,300 in summer, and the consular services (French especially but also Italian) do not want to adapt to the increase in Moroccan demand.

In the end, despite the change in December last, in the French visa application procedure, which was supposed to simplify procedures, the situation has not changed and it seems to have worsened since last February when waiting times for an appointment took 40 to 60 days against at least three months today.

Without a short-term solution, Moroccans will have to wait until the summer of 2020 to spend their holidays in Europe provided that they find a way to apply for a visa now.

Moroccan Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Mounia Boucetta

Moroccan Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Mounia Boucetta said on Monday that the government will "meet soon in Rabat with a commission of the European Union to examine a set of problems related to the issuance of visas." She said that the executive is "closely following this issue and in particular the issue of appointments that pose a problem to citizens."

The problems with issuing visas was raised during the oral questioning session of the House of Representatives on Monday. Lahcen Haddad, today member of the Istiqlal party and former Minister of Tourism under the colours of the People's Movement, expressed his concerns about it. "At the same time, European citizens enter the national territory without a visa," he says.

On May 9, Medias24 reported that in the face of the influx of meeting requests for tourist visa applications as the summer holidays approach, the consulates' computer systems were saturated, making it impossible to lodge a request. According to the sources of the information website, "the responsibility lies with European consular services that do not mobilise sufficient human and material resources to process applications."

"The real problem is that the French, Spanish and Italian consulates, which are the real decision-makers for the granting of visas, have limited human and material capacities that do not keep up with the demand and the possibilities of reception of BLS and TLS"


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