New Delhi, Nov 2: France, in line with all the countries of the Schengen Area (Europe), started issuing biometric visas to Indian citizens with effect from November 2.
The decision has been taken to facilitate travel throughout the Schengen Area (Europe) and help issue long-term visas more easily. France, the top global tourist destination, welcomes 300,000 Indian visitors every year.
In this context, the French Embassy in India will offer a large number of 3- or 5-year circulation visas to frequent visitors of France.
Eight new VFS centres have been opened across India, bringing up their number to a total of 14 (Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Jalandhar, Kolkata, Mumbai, Puducherry, and Pune), to ensure the best possible proximity to the applicants.
"All visa applicants will now be asked to come in person at any listed VFS centre of their choice to register their biometric data; children under the age of 12 years are exempted from this procedure," a release from the French embassy said.
The recorded biometric data will be stored for a period of 59 months (almost 5 years), obviating the need for applicants to come in person again for renewing their visa.
Furthermore, the biometric data recorded by France will be valid during this period for all Schengen Area countries (similarly, the data recorded by any Schengen Area country will be valid for France during a period of 59 months).
India will thus enter a system already being used by Schengen States almost globally, while other countries, such as the UK and the US, have long been implementing biometrics in India.
The transition to biometrics will not impact the visa issuance period, which, for India, is a maximum of 48 hours in keeping with the commitment of the French authorities (in cities where a consular office exists: Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Puducherry; 72 hours in other cases).
Similarly, transition to biometrics will not impact visa fees, which will remain unchanged.