French embassy to solve visa delays
Manama, June 16, 2012
Major changes have been introduced at the French Embassy in Bahrain in a bid to prevent a repeat of delays that caused outrage among people applying for visas.
New staff have been hired, including some who speak Arabic, and the waiting area expanded to ensure no-one will have to stand outside.
But travellers are still being advised to apply early to beat the anticipated annual summer rush.
In previous years, the embassy, which issues Schengen visas, has been bombarded with applications from people wanting to visit France, Austria, Spain, Greece and Portugal.
Former French Ambassador Yves Oudin was forced to apologise in 2010 for problems being faced by applicants, amid major delays and claims of ill treatment by Bahrainis.
But French Embassy cultural attachŽ Michel Nieto said part of the problem was people submitting visa applications at the last minute.
'If people have all their documents in order and have an appointment it should take no more than two to three days to process a visa. 'The problems come expecting to get a visa in a day,' he said.
'If people plan ahead and book ahead then they will run into no problems.'
The embassy previously said it could only process 50 visa applications a day, but that has since been raised to 70.
'We have hired new staff including Bahrainis that speak Arabic and English to speed up the call centre and process new visa applications better,' said French Embassy attachŽ in charge of cultural and educational co-operation Hannane Laidouni.
'We have also expanded the waiting area so no one will have to wait outside, we have a family section that will be used as a backup if it gets too crowded.
'We also hired staff that stay in the waiting rooms and help people deal with the visa application process. The best way to avoid the problems (long waits for visas) is to schedule visa appointments earlier,' he added.
The embassy has also scrapped its online booking system and has switched to a dedicated phone service, which is available in multiple languages.-TradeArabia News Service