Swedish study visas for Pakistani students

12,000 students await Swedish visas for over 3 months
Lahore, Nov 03: Around 12,000 Pakistani students who applied for study visas with the Swedish embassy three-and-a-half months ago, are awaiting their passports, as the embassy has not yet processed their applications.

Swedish officials blame the huge number of applications the embassy has received "for the first time".

The embassy has returned a number of passports with a refusal stamp, stating that the semester of studies has commenced and there is now no need to issue visas.

Classes in Swedish universities normally start in the third or fourth week of September.

The aspiring students say their visas have not been processed despite their having paid fee and sent all the required documents, including bank statements, acceptance letters from Swedish colleges/universities, passports and photos, to the embassy in July. They say the delay has also deprived them of any opportunity to secure admission to any other foreign university.

The processing fee for a student visa to Sweden is Rs 11,700 and the courier charges Rs 1,000, meaning each student has to pay Rs 12,700 to avail a visa.

Some students say they have even asked the embassy to return their passports without 'processing' them but there has been no response.

Muhammad Naveed, a resident of Lahore, said that he had been offered a place at the Blekinge Institute of Technology. He said he applied for a visa on July 16 but was awaiting his passport. He said he had requested the institute to grant him a two-week extension "but even then I cannot attend classes because there is no visa from the embassy".

Nadeem Abbas from Sialkot and Syed Yawar Abbas from Quetta are also awaiting visas, although they secured admission at a Swedish institute in July. They said they now wanted to study at a United Kingdom or the United States university but could not do so because their passports were with the Swedish embassy for the last three-and-a-half months. The Pakistani government should talk to the Swedish embassy over the issue, Yawar said, adding, "such attitude by the Swedish embassy will discourage 'genuine' students," he said.

Ehtisham Qayyum, a resident of Lahore, secured admission to Sweden's Vaxjo University on July 14. "I faxed the embassy to return my passport a month ago without issuing me a visa, but there has been no response," Qayyum said. A source at the courier company, which carried applications to the embassy, said around 12,000 applications had been sent to the embassy, meaning the embassy has received around Rs 140 million. But embassy officials say they do not have enough resources to accommodate the applications.

Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission Political Affairs Jörgen Lindström confirmed the delay in visa processing this year.

Nawal Atmé Migration Attaché/First Secretary Migration Affairs said the embassy did not 'directly' deal in visas and that a Migration Board in Sweden was responsible for issuing visas.

She admitted, however, that the embassy had received a huge number of applications, causing problems in visa processing. She said the embassy received around 2,800 applications last year but the number was around 6,000 this year. "The problem is going on and we are trying our best to solve it," she said, adding that the students who had been refused visas did not meet the visa requirements.

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