WINDHOEK- Namibian nationals are facing difficulties with obtaining visas to the European Union (EU), officially or privately.
The current Schengen system requires applicants to make online appointments well in advance but there is a lack of flexibility when Namibians need to travel urgently. Namibians citizens have also raised a concern about the process of the long-term visa. Director for Visas, Permits, Passports and Citizenships at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, Allison Hishekwa, says students are sent to Pretoria to obtain long-term visas, even if member states are represented in Namibia.
Namibia has requested the EU to include it in the countries that are eligible for the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). Namibia would join Mauritius and Seychelles that are the only two African countries amongst 61 nations that are eligible for ETIAS. In return, Namibia may offer to exempt EU member states in Eastern Europe. The proposed idea is meant to create a win-win situation for both Namibia and the EU. ETIAS is an electronic system that allows and keeps track of visitors from countries who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen zone. In a way, it will resemble the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA), which serves a similar purpose. The legal procedures to pass the ETIAS started in 2016, and the system is expected to be in place by 2021. The ETIAS, besides being used for business and tourist purposes, will also allow people to visit the Schengen countries for medical and transit reasons.
Moreover, Namibia emphasises that the population of Namibia does not pose an alarming threat to the EU. It is suggested that it may draw the EU’s attention to the fact that Namibian citizens are not amongst the African migrants who are migrating to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea. Furthermore, it is recommended that both sides appoint negotiation teams on the matter.