Complexities in visa applications

The procedures for appealing or reviewing a visa decision vary depending on the type and destination country.

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Its high season for visa applications worldwide. So, it's not surprising that this topic has suddenly become heated, with the Belgian Embassy on the receiving end in the last two weeks. For those of us tasked with handling these applications, it is evident that behind each request is a human narrative, frequently fraught with emotion or tragedy.

For instance, a student might be planning to travel for a course funded by a scholarship, a businessman might be looking to meet a potential life-changing partner, a child might be seeking to visit a parent, or someone could be dealing with a life-threatening illness or injury. These are all complex and sensitive situations.

Those of us responsible for making decisions for our sovereign States have the duty to process them in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. A visa is a privilege, not a right. The process is transparent and clearly communicated through all channels.

Applicants must fill out the forms correctly and honestly, stating precisely why they require the visa, but often, that is not the case. Despite the challenges, data from the Belgian Embassy shows that, on average, 80 percent of applicants in Kenya receive visas. Claiming the process is a scam, discriminatory, or abusive is baseless.

If an application is rejected, the reason is clearly communicated so that the applicant can correct the flaws through an appeal or by submitting a new file. Decisions are made within 15 to 60 days, depending on the quality of the file. This delay is necessary to process all received applications, some of which are complex.

The TLS visa service in Nairobi provides services for several countries with different requirements. For instance, while some countries may offer fast-track visa services, Belgium does not have this option. Furthermore, it does not charge any fee for retrieving a passport before the visa is granted. The procedures followed are derived from the Vienna Convention.

The Convention on Consular Relations says that States have the right to refuse a visa to any person without explanation or justification, and this refusal does not affect the person's right to apply again later. It establishes the rights and duties of consular officers regarding visa applications, including providing information, assistance, and protection to their nationals. It also regulates the fees, validity, duration, and revocation of visas and the procedures for appeals and review of visa decisions.

The procedures for appealing or reviewing a visa decision vary depending on the type of visa and the destination country. However, some general steps are followed if a visa application is rejected. Typically, the applicant will receive a written notification explaining the reasons for the refusal and the options for appeal or review. The notification will also indicate the deadline and the authority to which the appeal or review should be submitted.

The applicant can either submit a new visa application with additional or corrected documents or challenge the refusal decision by filing an appeal or a review. An appeal is a formal request to reconsider the decision based on existing evidence. At the same time, a review is a request to examine the decision based on new facts or circumstances unavailable at the time of the original application.

The appeal or review should be lodged within the specified time limit, usually 30 days from the refusal notification date. The applicant should follow the instructions in the notification and provide all the required information and documents to support their claim. They may also need to pay a fee for the appeal or review process.

The appeal or review will be handled by the competent authority, which could be the same consulate or embassy that issued the refusal, a higher consular authority, an administrative tribunal, or a judicial court, depending on the case. The authority will assess the merits of the appeal or review and decide whether to uphold or overturn the refusal decision.

The applicant will be notified of the outcome in writing, usually within 90 days of the appeal or review submission date. If the appeal or review is successful, the applicant will be granted a visa and can proceed with their travel plans. If the appeal or review is unsuccessful, the applicant can accept the decision or pursue further legal action, if possible and desired. However, this may entail additional costs and delays, and a positive result is not guaranteed.

Visa applications are inherently complex and often carry significant emotional weight. Although strict laws and regulations govern the process, it is also open and intended to be fair.

The Writer is Kenya’s Ambassador to Belgium, Mission to the European Union, Organization of African Caribbean and Pacific States and World Customs Organization. The article is written on a personal level.

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