The rise of technology has shaped the way people travel. Thanks to the abundance of travel blogs and availability of booking services, people can now research, plan, and arrange their entire trip, all from the comfort of their homes. Technology has also improved the visa application process, with many countries developing an online visa that can be delivered within minutes.
It wasn’t long ago where travellers needed to wait in long lines outside an embassy in order to apply for a visa. This time-consuming process usually required an excessive amount of paperwork which could take several weeks or months to approve.
However, technological growth has made it more popular for countries to switch to an online visa application process, saving both the embassy and the traveller time and money. Over the last few years, the US, Australia, Turkey, India, Russia, Georgia, and even Saudi Arabia have transitioned to online visas, making it easier than ever for people to travel.
Although many types of eVisas are open to the public, the process differs from country to country, which can be confusing for first-time applicants. If you need help applying for a Saudi Arabia visa or eVisa for another country, then it’s in your best interest to hire a visa specialist that can streamline the process.
In this article, we’ll discuss successful e-visa processes and share some key benefits and pieces of information about why eVisas are the future of travel.
Benefits of Online Visa Applications
The transition to an online visa application process has proved very beneficial for both travellers and the travel industry. For example, online visas are less prone to human error, as the data is simultaneously checked against a centralized international database.
In addition, local embassies (such as the Saudi Arabia embassy in London) receive far fewer in-person applicants, making it more efficient and safer for all parties involved. The application can also be submitted from anywhere in the world, which is extremely practical for applicants who are on vacation or travelling abroad for work.
For most countries, online visas can be approved within a matter of minutes, compared to the antiquated process that could take several weeks or even months. This makes last-minute travel possible and opens up the door to new travel opportunities for many people around the world.
The Very Successful ESTA Model
A great example of an efficient online visa program is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, in the United States. Foreign travellers wishing to enter the United States are able to submit their biographical data online, which is cross-checked against numerous departments to see if there is a criminal record or history of overstay or deportation. These departments include the Treasury Enforcement Communications System, the Terrorist Screen Database, and the Interpol and US Department of State records of lost or stolen passports.
If the application is accepted, then the traveller will be allowed to enter and stay in the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for a maximum of 90 days. However, it’s important to note that only citizens from certain participating countries are allowed to apply for an ESTA.
The EU Response of the Visa Information System (VIS)
If you’ve ever applied for a Visa to enter the EU, then you have probably submitted your information to the Visa Information System or VIS. This IT system is to collect, store, and share traveller information across Schengen member states. This makes it easier for the EU to keep track of incoming travellers, even if they enter and leave from different countries.
This biometric information is collected through a fingerprint scan and can only be accessed by authorities or border control personnel to confirm the identity of the traveller. This data is stored in VIS for five years, which means travellers are not required to rescan their fingerprints every time they leave or enter Schengen.
Risk Factors for Governments When Implementing eVisas
Although eVisas have many benefits, there are some associated risks worth mentioning. A few governments are sceptical about the truthfulness of the data, as travellers no longer are required to verify their information in person. Bank statements, medical insurance, and even personal identity can be forged, which means countries have to take higher precautions about theft and security.
It’s also impossible for a country to collect biometric data beforehand, as the application is submitted entirely online. It’s not until the traveller actually enters the country until this information is collected and stored.
Finally, many countries are also worried about the IT infrastructure needed to support an online visa platform. Without constant maintenance and oversight, online platforms can experience technological or server issues that may pose a threat to the efficiency of the eVisa service.
The travel industry is constantly changing, making it easier than ever for people to travel around the world. While there are some risks associated with creating an online visa program, there are also numerous benefits that make this process a worthwhile endeavour for many countries.
First and foremost, eVisas streamline the application process for embassies, travel agencies, and even the travellers themselves. Instead of waiting hours outside an embassy for an appointment and then another several weeks for an answer, travellers can now find out if their visa has been accepted without ever stepping foot outside their home.
The United State’s ESTA service and the Schengen VIS program are just two examples of how online visa systems can be successful. Although some countries may be sceptical about adopting this new system, the rise of technology will only improve, making the online visa application process a popular choice for worldwide travel.