Fabrice Etienne (left) and Cesare Bieller, the consuls-general of France and Italy, unveil the joint visa application centre in Kasba on Wednesday. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
A joint visa application centre of France and Italy was unveiled near Ruby hospital, off the Bypass, on Wednesday.
At a time when the consulates of both countries are receiving more than 100 applications each daily, mostly for summer holiday and business travel, the authorities said the application centre would shorten the waiting period.
Metro provides a guide to the new hub, inaugurated by the consul-general of France, Fabrice Etienne, and the consul-general of Italy, Cesare Bieller.
What: A joint visa application centre of France and Italy, which promises to expedite the processing of applications. The processing will happen in Calcutta and approvals are expected “within 24 hours” of submission of applications.
Where: Rene Tower, 5th Floor, Plot AA-I, Rajdanga Main Road, Kasba. The application centre has been opened within the VFS Global office and is located on the same floor as the UK visa application centre.
Landmark: The building on the Rashbehari connector, next to Gitanjali stadium, that houses a KFC outlet on the ground floor.
When: Applications can be submitted between 9am and 3pm from Monday to Friday. For travel agents, the window is 9am to 11am.
nWhat’s new: The application centre is spacious and has 20 counters.
“Earlier, the applications would travel to respective embassies in New Delhi and come back after a lengthy approval procedure. But now all the work will happen in Calcutta in the shortest possible time, aided by VFS,” said Atul Marwah, the head of operations (India), VFS Global.
There is a VIP lounge for priority applicants.
There are special facilities for differently-abled applicants.
The VFS Global office in Calcutta has the capacity to process 1 lakh applications a year.
Visa: Both countries offer Schengen visas.
The French consulate in Calcutta received 8,200 visa applications in 2013, an increase of 40 per cent from 2012.
While most of the applications were from Calcutta, a large section was from Odisha, Jharkhand and the Northeast.
Given the probability of a further increase this year, the consulate felt an outsourced service to VFS would help streamline the process.
“We have seen a steady growth in applications from Calcutta, which is greater than many of the other large cities in India. Hence, the need to have a separate application and clearance centre in Calcutta,” said Etienne.
Those who have studied in a French university will be granted a five-year multiple entry visa should they choose to travel later on a tourist visa, said Etienne at the inauguration.
Currently, there are about 2,600 Indians students in France. “This decision has been taken with a view to keeping cultural ties intact with those who had studied in France and encouraging more Indians to study in our country,” said Etienne.
Like France, Italy, too, receives about 100 applications each day during the peak summer holiday season.
“There is a conception that applying to Europe is complicated but that is not true. You do not need to submit a lot of papers but only the relevant ones and VFS will help you do that,” said Bieller.
Like for France, once an applicant’s Italian visa application is approved, he or she can get multiple entry visa that enables travel from Italy to any of the other Schengen countries.
“Earlier, hundreds of applicants and agents would have to stand outside the consulate in Alipore in the heat and rain, but now the process will not only be more comfortable but also quicker,” Bieller added.