[IMG=22091-7928]The issue that generated the greatest interest at the meeting between The German Consul in Russia and tour operators was the recent changes in the visa issuing process. The Consul confirmed that starting from February the visa issuing period will increase to two weeks (ten working days). Experts say that the Consulate guarantees to meet deadlines and avoid delays.
Furthermore, new rules were adopted for Russian citizens visiting exhibitions and balneological resorts in Germany – starting from September they will be interviewed at the Embassy in order to obtain a visa.
Meanwhile, tour operators were most concerned about the planned visa application quotas. Svetlana Stroganova, Director of Euro.Expo.ru, commented on the plans of the Consulate regarding quotas as follows: ‘this issue was actively discussed, including the variant of «first come first served» and quotas for each accredited company. No final decision has been taken as yet. The Consulate promised to make an announcement soon. At the moment it is certain that some form of quota system will be adopted’.
Tour operators also considered the Visa-extern system being tested by the German Consulate starting from February 19th. Stroganova explained the principle of the innovation: ‘tour operators themselves will enter information about their applications directly into the Consulate’s data base that will help to avoid high workload of the Consulate agents’.
But why are quotas going to be adopted? Boris Blinov, General Director of Altus Tour Operaor, commented as follows: ‘the planned system suggests that some visitors – those who go to exhibitions in Germany and balneological resorts – will contact the Consulate directly; thus, travel companies will not exceed their allotted quotas. It is difficult to forecast at present. Time will tell’.
Further changes adopted by the German Consulate refer to the necessity to add bank statements and other documents as a confirmation of tourists’ creditworthiness. But not only the German Consulate requires this, therefore travel companies are not surprised at innovation.
Meanwhile, travel market experts doubt that other European consulates will follow the initiatives of Germany as European Consulates in general are not inclined to copy each others’ visa application rules. Moreover, travel market players believe that the current changes in the German Consulate were provoked by a special factor relating to Germany – the high workload of the Consulate agents.
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