“Visa Shopping” is raising applications to come to Lithuania by leaps and bounds

When I meet Kavya, a design student at the University of the Arts London, in a cafe Shoreditch, she has multiple tabs open on her laptop screen. A YouTube video explaining how to pronounce zeppelins (traditional Lithuanian potato dumplings), a list of the country’s most famous museums and numerous hotel booking websites: a 23-year-old girl is collecting documents for a future Lithuanian. Schengen visa appointment. “I could hear the visa officers verifying the authenticity of the application by asking what we wanted to see and do in the country,” she explains.

As an Indian passport holder, there are several countries in Europe that Kavya can only enter with a Schengen visa. (Like all visa applicants interviewed for this piece, Kayva requested anonymity to protect her identity.) 1995 26 European countries abolished their individual border controls to create the single Schengen area. When a visitor obtains a Schengen visa for any of these countries, it also allows entry to other member countries.

According to her visa application, Kavya plans to travel to Lithuania at the end of June for eight days, spending a few nights in Vilnius, followed by an island in Lake Baloos, followed by a quick weekend getaway in Greece. She has a detailed itinerary detailing her plans for each day of her vacation, along with flight tickets, confirmed hotel reservations, travel insurance, bank statements, a signed cover letter, and a no-objection letter from the university—and yes, it’s all mandatory. documents so that the embassy of any Schengen country can even consider her application.

Despite all this research about Lithuania, Kavya has no plans to visit the country. In fact, her long-awaited summer vacation includes a week at the beach Mycenae. Like many other citizens of Indians, Chinese, South Africans, Nigerians and other countries that require a Schengen visa, Kavya embarks on a chaotic visa shopping spree.

Visits to popular tourist destinations (such as France, Italy, Spain and Greece) from the UK fill up months in advance, so travelers have found a way around the system. They reserve visa slots for smaller Schengen countries, such as Lithuania, which have fewer visitors, in order to obtain a Schengen visa and then continue their original holiday plans without interruption. These applicants ensure that they book return flights and hotels to Lithuania so that they can be canceled once the visa is approved. Although visa shopping is not punishable by law, those who engage in it face deportation if an observant customs officer discovers that their Schengen visa has been issued to another country they have not visited and have no specific plans to visit.

“On some days this year we had 40-50 applications for Lithuania, much more than in previous years. It’s a small country – of course, we can say that most people choose visas,” says Shuan, a service official Global visa services (VFS), who asked for her name.

VFS is a global agency that processes visa applications on behalf of other countries; Shuan reveals that German visa officers are usually the strictest and have deported visa buyers back to the UK. Shuan also explains that embassy officials have ways to spot these patterns. Most often, applicants book luxury hotels or Airbnb and inexpensive hostels in Lithuania at the final destination – the differences are obvious. However, a AXA Schengen studyThe European insurance company shows that Lithuania has the highest acceptance rate for Schengen visas – 98.7 percent, which further encourages visa buyers to choose this route.

According to 24-year-old Sainik, the deception is justified. Her partner is an American whose powerful passport allows her to fly Majorca to escape from stressful tasks for the weekend. As a Sri Lankan, this remains a dream for Sainik.

“Traveling together is an important part of building intimacy. We’ve been waiting for summer in Provence for several months, but all the meetings in France are booked until August – it’s ridiculous,” she exclaims, adding that she has been constantly looking for vacancies since the beginning of April. As time goes by, people are getting more confident in getting visas; many applicants admitted this in their interviews with Shuan, stressing that they were left with no alternative.

“Honestly, I wish we didn’t have to do this because it’s more expensive and we have to jump through these hoops to get the holidays we’re paying for,” says Anirudh, an Indian student in London. While hotels can easily be booked with free cancellations, even partially refundable flights can be a big investment. Anirudh and his friends plan a vacation to Holland via Lithuania and took advantage Schengen flight reservation visa reserve your tickets. The site is popular among visa buyers and undecided travelers because it creates fake flight reservations that embassy officials can confirm with airlines. Anirudh paid £25 for the flight tickets, which he will only use to show up at the meeting, in addition to £108 in visa processing fees.

A cursory glance at Henley Passport Index in 2022 reveals a sinister form of modern racial apartheid enforced through a passport hierarchy. Many European countries, including Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain, have the most powerful passports that allow visa-free entry to more than 180 countries. Japan, Singapore and South Korea are the only non-Western countries mentioned in the top 30. In contrast, black and brown countries are at the bottom of the list, with Afghanistan at the bottom of the index. “Since (colonial) empires have disappeared, most of the world’s formerly colonized nations continue to suffer from third-rate passports. writes Dmitry Kochenov inside conors i newspaper. Kochenov is a professor Central European University Democracy Institute and the author Citizenshipa book that advocates an end to passport bias.

While human rights laws prevent overt discrimination, passports create an unfair disadvantage for people of color by preventing access through biased border controls. It’s no wonder that buying visas is becoming an increasingly popular option for aspiring travelers. But if people of color have to work so hard to get a vacation, imagine the red tape they have to go through when political unrest forces them to flee as refugees. In these tumultuous times, the more powerful the passport, the better the chance of finding safe haven – or in other cases, a simple holiday.

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