By Emeka Aginam,Â Asst. Online Editor
Few weeks after the modification of online visa appointment system, the Consulate-General of the Federal Republic of Germany has attributed disturbing interference byÂ touts as a reason why the web based booking systemÂ provided by VFS Global Services Nigeria Ltd.had to be modified to allow Nigerians fair and transparent access to visa related appointments for interviews.
The new Consul-Gener
al of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr. Walter von den Driesch who disclosed this to Vanguard Computers & E-business in an online interaction recentlyÂ with optimism said thatÂ the new visa appointment procedure guidelines which requires prospective applicants for Schengen visa to Germany to send a formal letter according to their purpose of stay to the visa section of the German Consulate-General 6-8 weeks prior to the intended time of travel said has been effective.
â€œWe felt obliged partly to suspend the online booking system for Schengen visa applicants weeks ago because of disturbing interference by “touts”. The system we are now applying is described on our website. No complaints for the time being!â€ the new Consul-General who is passionate about transparent visa application process said.
The new visa appointemnt booking rule which started from 10 September 2009, it was gathered does not apply to frequent travelers who were given the benefit to come to the Consulate-General early in the morning with relevant documents for the appointment. Furthermore it does not apply for applicants for German national visa for long stay- those few applicants may continue to book their appointments online.
Although daily capacity under the new system was not ascertained as at press time, the new system, it was learnt, gives equal and fair opportunities to genuine visa applicants traveling to Germany or to the Schengen area either for buiness or tourism.
Before the introduction of the new rule, daily capacity was about 124 applicants, given room for more customers to go for their visa interview.
The web based appointment system under the old system after its introduction was very effective, convenient and allowed easy and free access to all applicants until touts started interfering.
â€œWe have been very transparent in our visa process. Our major challenges are late application, incomplete application and fraudulent application.
We do not and will never tolerate, especially, forgery in any visa application. That is not acceptable by the German Consulate-General. Applicants should know it now. It is also important that applicants should not patronize visa racketeers or toutsâ€ the former Head of Lagos Office of the German EmbassyÂ which was upgraded to a Consulate-General on 1 September 2008,Â Dr. Ralf Teepe, had told Vanguard Computers & E-Business when he was serving in Nigeria.
He had assured that the Lagos Office of the German Embassy will continue to give all visa applicants fair hearing and equal opportunity.Â While noting that German Embassy has been fair to their visa applicants, he informed that most visa denied were based on various reasons, including fake documents. But Nigeria is an important trading partners to Germany, he added.
The activities of touts in visa racketeering which is not limited to the German Mission, it was learnt, have continued to be a source of worry to the foreign Missions in Nigeria and also to the visa applicants leaving them worse off in the process of seeking for appointment.
In their fight against forgery and fraudulent use of documents, it would be recalled that the Federal Republic of Germany has supported the Nigerian Immigration Service officers stationed at the Murtala Mohamed Airport Ikeja with ten sophisticated document forgery detectors from the specialized German company Waldmann.
A bilateral memorandum of understanding between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Federal Republic of Germany signed in 1996 provides mutual assistance in the fight against forgery and illegal entry by air.