Dozens of Sri Lankan applicants for an Austrian visa including students, tourists, businessmen and skilled workers are infuriated owing to the step motherly treatment given to them when processing their applications at the Austrian consulate in Chennai and the embassy in New Delhi.
Many Sri Lankan students are visiting Austria mainly for studies in schools of tourism and technical colleges in that country, informed sources said.
Visa applicants, frustrated over the cumbersome process, told the Sunday Times FT that slow processing, and arbitrary decisions of the Austrian Embassy in New Delhi had prevented them from visiting Austria although they processed the required documents. hey said that they have been made to believe that Sri Lankans are not welcome in Austria.
The Sunday Times FT contacted the Austrian Embassy in New Delhi via e-mail to seek their views on this matter last week but there was no response received as yet.
A large number of Sri Lankan students with confirmed placements in Austrian hotel schools were among the applicants whose visas had been rejected by the Austrian embassy in New Delhi.
The German Embassy in Colombo has been authorised to issue 3-month tourist visas to Sri Lankan businessmen and tourists to visit Austria and applicants whose visas were rejected by them were asked to go to the nearest Austrian Consulate or embassy.
The Austrian consulate in Colombo is now not involved in the issuing of visas and therefore these applicants whose visa applications are rejected by the German embassy in Colombo are compelled to go to Chennai or New Delhi to submit fresh applications, a German embassy official in Colombo confirmed.
A visa applicant, a resident of Galle, a tourist guide lecturer by profession who travelled to Austria for over 10 times on a tourist visa told the Sunday Times FT that he had to travel to New Delhi to get his visa but even after visiting there, it was a difficult task to get it. He said that he had to spend over Rs. 300,000 for travelling and lodging. He added that he stayed nine days in New Delhi but he failed to get the visa although he possessed all necessary documents including sponsorship letters. A visa application of a partner of an Austrian- Sri Lankan company has also been rejected recently by the embassy in New Delhi without giving any reasons.
This situation has arisen after the removing of powers without any valid reason granted to the Austrian consulate in Colombo to process and recommend visas effective from July this year, visa applicants said. They noted that the consulate in Colombo has no powers even to accept visa applications.
Although the announcement by the German embassy in Colombo that visa applications would be processed within a short period, applicants soon began experiencing major problems such as unclear instructions, lost or misplaced documents, difficulty checking on the status of applications and delays of a month or longer before receiving a decision.
Around 600 Sri Lankans apply for Austrian visas per month and most of their applications get rejected. This situation has been brought to the notice of the Austrian Ambassador (in New Delhi) but no action has been taken as yet, a frustrated applicant said.
These applicants said that earlier there was no problem as all the processing of their applications was carried out by the Austrian consulate in Colombo. They praised the services extended by officials at the consulate in Colombo. The Colombo officials provided an excellent and honest service maintaining the dignity of Sri Lanka and Austria, they said.
They pointed out that the move to remove visa operations from Austrian consulate in Colombo had caused problems, and it delayed the process. They urged the Austrian authorities to grant the Austrian consulate in Colombo the power to issue visas which would avoid long waits and incomprehensible rejections of applications of Sri Lankans.