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CROSSING Online applications should ease the pain of securing visas but there are still plenty of hurdles for business travellers to negotiate, writes Rob Gill


he chore of filling in a seemingly endless visa application form has long been the bane of many business travellers’ lives – make a small mistake and you risk having the application rejected and the prospect of starting the whole process again. Fortunately, the advent and increasing adoption by countries of online visa application platforms in recent years is designed to make this process less laborious for travellers and their employers – at least in theory. India, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Kenya and Uganda are among the nations to introduce online application systems in recent years. But online systems don't always run smoothly, says Iain Collinson, Product Manager at FCM Travel Solutions. “The online experience varies hugely by country. Some online services are supported by thirdparty organisations. Even with an embassy’s


own online service there have been problems experienced by travellers on arrival in the country,” says Collinson. “There have been reported teething problems with the rollout of some countries e-visa sites, notably those from the developing world,” he adds. While electronic visa applications should save time for travellers pre-trip, they are far from a perfect solution and visa specialists point out that embassies can ask for extra information at any time. And frustratingly, applications can be turned down despite travellers fulfilling all the stated requirements online. Tracey Beveridge, Head of operations, UK and Norway, for Wings Travel Management, also warns: “Although e-visas can be initially less expensive and less time consuming to obtain, they can result in more questioning at the point of entry.”

The introduction of e-visas may also be slowed by the fact that some countries in the developing world simply cannot afford to introduce an online system. David Cullum, Elite Passport and Visa coordinator at Corporate Travel Management (CTM), says: “For some poorer countries, it’s a big ask to spend millions on developing a new online database so the global shift online is slow. But I would guess that all countries’ visa processes will be electronic within the next decade.” Given that business visa applications are often more complicated, it may be tempting for travellers to avoid the additional paperwork and enter countries on tourist visas, which are generally easier to acquire. “A lot of business travel is conducted on tourist visas, which carries risk for the individual and the organisation,” says FCM’s Iain Collinson. “Having companies


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The Business Travel Magazine August/September 2017  

The multi-award-winning publication written and produced for bookers, buyers, arrangers and managers of business travel and meetings. This i...