UK, Schengen states make millions off rejected visas

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LONDON: The United Kingdom and Schengen countries raised millions of pounds and euros in fees from rejected visa applications from Pakistan, new research published this month shows.

The analysis released by Lago Collective, a community of researchers, policymakers and designers, shows that Pakistanis spent £5.3 million on rejected UK visa applications, with close to 40 per cent applications rejected from Pakistan in 2023.

In the same year, around 50pc of Schengen visas from Pakistan were also rejected, with €3.344m spent on applications.

The data was published in collaboration with the EUobserver, which reported that EU governments raked in €130m per year in rejected visa application fees, which were dubbed as ‘reverse remittances’.

Data shows Pakistanis spent £5.3 million on UK, €3.344m on EU visa applications that were unsuccessful

The analysis compiled by Marta For­e­sti and Otho Mantegazza at Lago Coll­ective showed that the cost of Schengen visa rejections in 2023 was €130m.

“Visa inequality has very tangible consequences and the world’s poorest pay the price. You can think of the costs of rejected visas as ‘reverse remittances’, money flowing from poor to rich countries,” Foresti said in a statement to Dawn. “We never hear about these costs when discussing aid or migration, it is time to change that.

“The rejection rate for short-term visa applications from Pakistan is very high, at approximately 40pc for both Schengen countries and the UK, resulting in very significant costs for all involved. This is surprising given the multiple ties between Pakistan, Europe and the UK.

“Yet the challenges faced by Pakistani nationals to reach Europe through legal means became tragically clear a year ago when hundreds died in the Greece boat capsize. People have no choice but to resort to dangerous journeys,” Foresti added. Foresti is the founder of Lago Collective and senior visiting fellow, ODI.

The EUobserver report said the total sum is likely to increase in 2024 since the visa application fee to travel to the EU will increase from 80 to 90 for adults on June 11. It also said the UK raised £44m in rejected fees, which are non-refundable regardless of the outcome. African and Asian countries bear 90pc of the costs for rejected Schengen visas.

Writing for LSE blogs last year, Foresti noted, “Visas regimes are not equal or reciprocal. An Italian national can obtain a visa to Sierra Leone on arrival for £30. A Sierra Leonean wishing to travel to Italy for a business meeting must undertake two separate trips to the Italian Consulate in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, over several weeks at eye-watering costs.”

The analysis notes that the visa application fee for short-term Schengen visas is 80 and for the UK equivalent, £100. For UK visa applications, countries with high rejection rates include Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria — bearing high costs as a result (£5.8m, £5.3m, 2.3m and 3.6m, respectively).

Visa application fees are increasing, to 90 for Schengen/Europe and £120 for the UK. This will result in significant increases in rejected visas in 2024, further exacerbated by the emphasis on tightening migration in many European countries where elections are taking place.

In a statement, Lago said, “These costs are just the tip of the iceberg: in most cases, applicants pay more than the basic application fee, with private agencies involved in processing visa applications and brokers providing additional services along the way. The costs of not being able to travel for business and leisure also results into significant losses for all those involved.”