Senior diplomats from the Belgian embassy have said that the outsourcing of the Schengen Visa application process is geared towards improving efficiency and service delivery in the application process.
Effective today, January 15, 2019, all applicants for the Schengen Visa will have to go through a private company, VFS Global.
Benoît Ryelandt, the Belgian Ambassador to Rwanda, however, said that despite the amendments, the Embassy will continue to handle the decision process and issuance of the visa.
The Schengen Visa is issued by Belgium, but can grant access to 19 European Countries.
Rwanda joins other countries across the world whose citizens apply through the agency.
According to available statistics, the number of Rwandans applying to travel to Schengen countries has risen by 25 per cent. In 2018, the number of applicants was 9,500 from 7,567 the previous year. Five years ago, only 5,000 Rwandans applied for the Schengen Visa.
The growing rate of Schengen Visa applications by Rwandans in recent years was attributed to factors such as increased disposable incomes and general economic growth, which allows more Rwandans to travel abroad.
Other specific reasons for travel to the EU include doing business, cultural exchange, as well as sporting events.
However, not all applications were successful, with about 15 per cent of them being rejected 2018. The previous year, the refusal rate was higher - 20 percent.
According to Consular officials at the Embassy, the main reasons for refusal was ignoring application guidelines and requirements.
Solange Kassianoff, the Consul at the Belgian Embassy, said that despite efforts by the Embassy to avail information on requirements for a Schengen visa, it is not uncommon to see incomplete entries or missing requirements in the application.
Others hit a snag after applicants relied on unscrupulous agents to process their application on their behalf.
Often this is due to the misconceptions that the application is a complex process.
Hariprasad Viswanathan, the regional head for Sub-Saharan Africa Region at VFS Global, assured potential applicants they have systems that guarantee data privacy and security as well as a corruption-free process.
The firm will also introduce services such as a call centre and online tracking of the status of their applications.
VFS Global has opened an application centre on the first floor of Soras Towers, Downtown Kigali.