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Monday, July 15, 2024

Denied and charged: The price Pakistanis pay for failed UK and EU visa attempts

Recent research revealed that Pakistani applicants face significant financial losses due to high rejection rates for UK and Schengen visas.

Recent research has revealed that Pakistani applicants face significant financial losses due to high rejection rates for UK and Schengen visas. The findings emphasizes the economic strain on individuals from developing countries trying to travel legally to wealthier nations.

Financial Impact on Pakistani Applicants

In 2023, Pakistani nationals spent a staggering £5.3 million on UK visa applications that were ultimately rejected, with nearly 40% of all applications denied, according to Lago Collective, a group of researchers, policymakers, and designers . Similarly, around 50% of Schengen visa applications from Pakistan were rejected, costing applicants €3.344 million in non-refundable fees . This financial burden on Pakistani travelers highlights a broader issue of visa inequality that disproportionately affects individuals from poorer nations.

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Visa Inequality and Reverse Remittances

Marta Foresti, founder of Lago Collective and a senior visiting fellow at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), coined the term “reverse remittances” to describe the flow of money from poor to rich countries via non-refundable visa fees . Foresti noted that these costs are often overlooked in discussions about aid and migration. “Visa inequality has very tangible consequences, and the world’s poorest pay the price,” she stated, emphasizing the need for greater awareness and policy changes to address this disparity.

High Rejection Rates Despite Strong Ties

The rejection rates for Pakistani nationals are surprising given the multiple ties between Pakistan, Europe, and the UK. These high rejection rates emphasizes the challenges faced by Pakistani nationals trying to reach Europe through legal means. The tragic Greece boat capsize incident, where hundreds of Pakistanis died, highlighted the desperation that drives individuals to undertake dangerous journeys when legal routes are inaccessible.

Rising Visa Application Fees

The financial burden on applicants is set to increase further in 2024. The fee for Schengen visa applications has risen from €80 to €90, and the UK visa application fee has increased from £100 to £120 . These hikes in visa fees will likely result in even greater financial losses for applicants from countries with high rejection rates. The EUobserver reported that EU governments collected €130 million annually from rejected visa application fees, predominantly affecting applicants from African and Asian countries, who bear 90% of the costs for rejected Schengen visas.

Additional Costs Beyond Basic Fees

The basic application fees are just part of the total costs incurred by visa applicants. Many individuals also pay substantial amounts to private agencies involved in processing visa applications and brokers who offer additional services. These additional expenses further exacerbate the financial burden on applicants, making it even more challenging for them to travel for business or leisure.

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The analysis by Lago Collective highlights the urgent need for policy reform to address visa inequality. Foresti argued that the costs of rejected visas should be included in broader discussions about aid and migration policies. The current visa regimes are not reciprocal, often placing disproportionate financial and procedural burdens on applicants from poorer countries . For instance, while an Italian national can obtain a visa to Sierra Leone on arrival for £30, a Sierra Leonean must endure two costly trips to the Italian Consulate in Cote d’Ivoire for a visa.