Given the costs involved the EU Schengen visa is exclusive to the very rich

Dear Editor,

I read with utter amazement your article dated May 12, 2014 regarding ‘New requirements for EU Schengen visas’ quoting the EU Delegate as essentially saying Guyanese will be required to present themselves to respective EU embassies to provide their biometric data to obtain a Schengen visa. However, what the European Union Delegate to Guyana will not say is Guyanese must now travel to neighbouring states such as Trinidad or Suriname to provide their biometrics, then wait for several days before uplifting their passports, and travel back home, with or without their visas. The cost of this sojourn amounts to almost US$1,000, which includes about US$250 (airfare to Suriname or T&T) plus US$250 (accommodation for maybe 3 to 5 days) plus US$200 (for food), then add the cost of the visa (about US$100) , travel insurance (about $75) and other smaller costs, only to obtain the visa. All of this without yet paying for the airfare to one of the European countries or Dutch territories! Clearly the EU’s Schengen visa becomes exclusive to the very rich.

Although the EU Delegate says for first-time applicants, “They will not have to provide fingerprints for subsequent visa applications,” if anyone does an internet search, clear mention is made on several EU web links that this biometric is only valid for five years. In a five-year period how many touring Guyanese plan on travelling to these countries? The ordinary tourist perhaps only once.

Whereas other Western countries are moving in the advanced direction of establishing visa application centres (which take biometrics) outside of their embassies, such as the Canadians and the British (a non-Schengen EU member state) here in Guyana, this backward EU approach suggests a bureaucracy which is struggling to catch up with the rest of the world. But, maybe the message of our former colonialists is simply “you are not welcome in Europe.”

But even for a businessman this investment cost is exorbitant, and brings into question the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which was signed between the EU and the Caribbean countries to remove barriers for trade between the two regions. Here the new visa requirement drives up the cost of doing business for Guyanese businesses and perhaps a few other Caribbean countries who are in a similar predicament. Hopefully this travesty is addressed by Caricom.

Yours faithfully,

Garfield Williams