Tourist agencies sell visa appointments for the German Embassy, making the cost of a visa application over 100 euros for Kosovar citizens with the knowledge of the Embassy.
Long lines of people who want to get Schengen visas, snake around the German embassy in Prishtina. Few of those are lucky to have set the appointment for application themselves. The rest get their appointment through agencies, for a steep price.
“We issue appointments each week, which are reserved almost immediately,” ambassador Angelika Viets said in an interview for Kosova Press. “The appointments are published in the official website of the German embassy, every citizen can reserve an appointment there.”
The online management system used by the Embassy allows citizens to apply for an appointment within the next three months. However, due to the high demand almost immediately after appointments become available they get booked — most of them by travel agencies.
The German Embassy in Kosovo processed 37,000 applications last year alone, according to the ambassador.
Local media in Kosovo report that agencies that operate next to the Embassy which assist people in filling application forms and sell health insurance, also sell appointments. Some travel agencies advertise these sales on multiple Facebook pages, although they do not reveal the price.
Depending on demand, a visa appointment to the German embassy can cost from 80 to 200 euros, other media report.
One of the agencies Prishtina Insight contacted through facebook,Termine per Viza Gjermane (Appointments for German Visas), explained that an appointment cost 30 euros. Prior to the reservation, the applicant needs to send the agency a photograph of the passport and a contact number.
The German Embassy is aware of ‘the black market’ of visa appointments, but Ambassador Viets maintains that the activity is not illegal.
“The travel agencies have an advantage, because they follow the website constantly, so 24 hours a day,” explains Viets adding that the moment available appointments are posted online, agencies book them before anyone else can get to them.
The ambassador does not endorse this activity, saying that the embassy continuously warns citizens that they do not have to buy these appointments, because it’s expensive and unnecessary.
“Every citizen can book an appointment by himself,” the ambassador maintains, ignoring the limited number of appointments and the fact that usually there are simply no available appointments for months on end.
“We’ve asked the Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Berlin about the issue of selling the appointments, and we can’t act against these agencies, because they’re not doing anything illegal,” said Viets.
“The only way to stop these agencies is if Kosovars stop buying their services,” said Viets, appealing to those citizens applying for visas at the German embassy.