Sitting entire days at the consulate centre in Mumbai.
Signing documents without translations.
Paying extra for a fast procedure, delivered with cake and coffee.
These are only a few of the hurdles that young people face when applying for visas to Europe, whether their purpose is to study, work, or volunteer. The European Youth Forum has identified several impediments to youth mobility, including unclear guidelines on visa procedures.
Exact information on the number of visas denied or treatment at the embassies is hard to find, as regulations vary from country to another. Yet several people interviewed by YO!Mag talk about discouraging experiences when trying to access Europe.
ai???For people from Africa, getting a visa is the most difficult,ai??? says Christine Sudbrock, secretary general of the youth organisation International Falcon Movement ai??i?? Socialist Educational International (IFM-SEI).
With branches all over the world, IFM-SEI has years-long experience in struggling to have all participants attend events held in Europe.
ai???We also have the feeling that young men get their visas denied more often than young women,ai??? Sudbrock adds.
ai???Prove your intention to returnai???
According to Sudbrock, visa applicants often need to show that they are planning to return to their home countries. Sufficient proof could include receiving a regular income, being married, or owning a house.
ai???It helps much less to say that youai??i??re an active member of the local youth organisation,ai??? the secretary general says.
Delphine Konda, Cameroonian and an active member of the Network of International Youth Organisations in Africa, says it is painful to have her patriotism questioned simply for applying for a one-week visa to Europe.
ai???Sadly, we are all just bundled into the same box of ai???desperate young Africans looking for an escape route to Europe,ai??i??ai??? Konda says.
Augustine Job from Nigeria was denied visas both to Belgium and Slovakia because his intention to ai???leave the Schengen area was not clear.ai??? For the African President of the Catholic association Fimcap, this meant he had to skip the organisationai??i??s General Assembly meeting.
ai???I had already been to the Schengen territory more than nine times, and each time, I returned to Nigeria without violating the conditions of the visa,ai??? Job laments.
Lost in red tape
Although a few people told YO!Mag they had no trouble receiving their visas, many others could pack their bags only after a long bureaucratic process.
ai???When I applied for the German visa, I had to provide a bank statement from my parents, official pay slips from their companies, an insurance document, a criminal record, an official statement from my school, invitation letter from my uncle living in Germany, and invoice of the visa fee payment,ai??? lists Oncu Gunes amitriptyline in mexico. from Turkey.
Outdated information on the embassy websites also leads to several appointments as there are ai???always papers missing,ai??? tells Shreya Parikh from India. She has applied for both travel and study visas to France.
Vagueness of the procedure has led the majority of Indians she knows hiring an”agent” or a visa adviser who deals with everything from booking flights to submitting papers.
ai???On average, people end up paying double the cost: the cost of visa and the cost of this adviser,ai??? Parikh says. She adds that student visas are already expensive: the French one cost her altogether more than 250 euros.
All this restricts the mobility of lower classes of the society. As Sudbrock puts it, sometimes only young people with rich parents can afford to explore the world.
No category for volunteers
In addition to the paperwork, applicants need to be patient with long waiting times. Bhavani Castro from Brazil received her student visa to France only after three months.
Once graduated, she had to queue for hours at the French administrative office to renew her visa.
ai???Iai??i??m young and could handle to stay in line for six hours, but there were a lot of old people, ladies with babies and young children,ai??? Castro says.
Yet students and workers at least have a visa to apply for. While the UK is a rare exception to the rule, in several European countries there is no visa category for volunteers.
ai???Embassies often donai??i??t know what volunteers are. We had to explain several times to the immigration authorities how their own system works,ai??? Sudbrock from IFM-SEI says.
She recalls one case where the Belgian embassy simply did not process the visa application of one of the organisationai??i??s volunteers, as the staff did not know what to do with it.
ai???Not worthy to go to Europeai???
At the individual level, Sudbrock reminds that being denied a visa can be a ai???huge blowai??? for the young peopleai??i??s self-confidence.
ai???It is horrible when an embassy decides that you are not worthy enough to go to Europe,ai??i??ai??? she says.
Even when admitted to Europe with a long-term visa, several interviewees say they received a cold welcome from the local authorities.
ai???I had to try to understand an immigration law that was designed to deliberately keep me and my kind out of Europe,ai??? says Konda from Cameroon.
After completing his university degree in London, Gunes from Turkey discovered that most employers prefer job applicants from the EU. He now works as a waiter.
ai???The UK does not want us to stay here, but we are not unqualified migrants, refugees or terrorists,ai??? he says.
Yet Gunes says international experiences are an occasion to learn from other countries and export the best models back home. For Turkey, he says, young peopleai??i??s experiences in Europe might even help joining the European Union.
At the same time, crossing the frontiers forces people to question their prejudices.
ai???In Turkey, it is always told that the British are too cool, the French are too nationalist, and the German do not like Turks. None of this was true,ai??? Gunes says.
Meeting people from different backgrounds is equally important for Europeans, Sudbrock believes.
ai???This way the young can also learn what the actions of Europe are doing to the rest of the world,ai??? she says.
Despite having had a ai???wonderful timeai??? experiencing European cultures, food, and the way of life, Konda says her visits also taught where she belongs.
ai???Africa is the only home where I have never felt the need to justify my claim over the continent.ai???
Header image: Martin Fisch (Flickr)