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As far as my passport is concerned, a visa is a (very fancy) sticker.

Why is it that consulates actually take away your passport and give it back with the visa on it?

Why not just examine your passport, issue the visa, let you keep the passport, and have you come back so that they can stick the visa onto the passport? Why do they need it in between?

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    Because they can... feel the power... I agree. There seems to be no good reason except that they couldn't care less that you need to go without a passport for that time. – Aganju Apr 13 '16 at 3:12
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    I suspect it's got something to do with wanting to be absolutely sure that they issue the visa for the correct passport that they have approved. It's not enough to simply verify the number; false documents are possible. – Greg Hewgill Apr 13 '16 at 3:18
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    In smaller embassies, usually the whole process (receiving, interview if any, processing, and returning passports) are done by the same people. They can not afford to add complication by the process, especially if the process requires extra audits and checks (such as issuing the visas and then in another time sticking them). It's just easier to make it in one step.. – Nean Der Thal Apr 13 '16 at 5:56
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    People are commenting because they are speculating, or giving counter examples. They don't have a good, clear answer. – CMaster Apr 13 '16 at 8:12
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    While some comments are speculation, others can be upgraded to viable answers (explain or personal experience or provide authoritative links, etc). If you can promote your comment into an answer, please do! – Gayot Fow Apr 13 '16 at 11:28
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I can answer this for the UK and Schengen members...

In the first instance, consulates take your passport because there are some laws involving how a visa is issued. Prominent among those are...

Paragraph 24, which states...

The following must produce to the Immigration Officer a valid passport or other identity document endorsed with a United Kingdom entry clearance issued to him for the purpose for which he seeks entry:...

Paragraph 27, which states...

An application for entry clearance is to be decided in the light of the circumstances existing at the time of the decision...

Paragraph 28, which states...

An applicant for an entry clearance must be outside the United Kingdom and Islands at the time of the application...

(These rules are all found at Immigration Rules)

From these it's clear that they need to take possession of the travel document in order to assess its validity. And from Paragraphs 27 and 28 they need to be sure that the conditions of issuance are 'fixed' to a specific date and time. It means that the applicant has not travelled with the passport in the interval between submission and issuance, and (to the extent possible) the applicant is not in the UK when the decision is made. In addition, the Entry Clearance Officer has to assess the application. These things cannot be done 'while-you-wait' and holding the passport helps to guarantee that Paragraphs 24, 27, and 28 are diligently observed.

There are some practical and administrative considerations that come into play...

  • Those visa stickers are affixed to the passport page by a machine and there's usually one machine per post. The passports need to be sequenced, fed in to the machine, and then checked by a human. This is done as a background task by local hires who may be on shift work in a batch. Trying to arrange a batch according to whoever showed up is administratively impractical.

  • In the UK case, they don't like people hanging around the consulate, they like to make the decision entirely by paper-based evidence (they really do not like to engage the public directly for various reasons not worth going in to here). Moreover, the security is not staffed up for lengthy queues. So they use a VFS to ring-fence the consulate from engaging directly with the public (yes, there are exceptions where they need to see someone but these are not the normal case).

  • In keeping with the above, most of the world is set up to use the Visa Facilitation Service (VFS) as a intermediary, the applicant drops off their stuff and then returns to collect it when they get a notification email. The VFS has no decision-making role and largely acts as a secured courier, so it really makes no sense to have a queue of people hanging around the VFS waiting for a visa to be affixed.

  • In places like Nigeria, the passport and evidence may be sent to their special assessment unit that performs 'deep analysis'. This can take several weeks and it would not make sense to separate the passport from the other evidence during this phase.

  • In the Schengen cases where the applicant must report to the consulate for an interview, it would mean making two trips to the consulate: one for the interview and one to collect their stuff, this is thought to be an unreasonable burden on the applicant.

  • Especially in the British case, there is an overarching cultural influence best called: 'this is the way things work' (TITWTW, 'titwah'). This usually operates as a stand-alone rationale for a lot of things in the UK and visas are no exception. If you encounter TITWTW, the discussion has reached its conclusion.

  • Other answers in the archives here have pointed out that the application location is not necessarily the decision location. Applications submitted in Morocco for example are decided in Croydon (London suburbs). Applications submitted in Kabul are decided in New Delhi (graphic from UKVI presentation). So where would the applicant queue?

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And as a final note, yes, it's possible for an applicant to have an ECO come around to their house or office, or for an applicant to show up at the consulate on a while-you-wait basis. They are very flexible and will accommodate almost anything you want (I attended the Parliamentary debates on this topic and can attest to the flexibility). I haven't checked recently but the last time I looked, those services started at about GBP 15k and upwards from there. A person can also arrange for a private landing interview at Heathrow (etc) and they will even send someone to small airports like Robin Hood.


Note: most of the above are stated as UK specific, Schengen members have comparable or similar conditions.

Note: dual nationals (or holders of duplicate passports) always come up with the corner case: can I apply for entry clearance with one passport and simultaneously enter the UK on my other passport? This is theoretically possible because the IO may not always know that the person has applied for entry clearance using a second passport. But returning to Paragraph 28, if they ever find out that the person was in the UK during a pending application for entry clearance, the person becomes an illegal entrant for that period of time. That will have grave impact if the person ever tries to get another entry clearance or apply for British nationality, etc. So the bottom line is yes, but you are implicitly accepting the consequences.

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    In case it goes unnoticed: GBP 15k = GBP 15,000. – gnasher729 Apr 13 '16 at 11:16
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    In Germany TITWTW is known as the basic rules of bureaucracy (Beamtendreisatz): 1) We have always done it like that. 2) We have never done it like that. 3) Who do you think you are? – neo Apr 13 '16 at 12:18
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    "[T]hey will even send someone to private airports like Robin Hood." All passenger airports in the UK have been privately owned since what was the British Airports Authority was privatized in 1985. – David Richerby Apr 13 '16 at 14:25
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    You don't need to be a dual national to get a second passport. In Germany, getting a second passport is standard procedure if you can state a valid reason. Needing to travel while your passport is in processing is one reason. Another would be potential trouble with stamps from one country while traveling to a second (e.g. Israel/Iran/USA). – toni Apr 13 '16 at 15:30
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    @Mindwin Not only does NK not mind having U.S. stamps in your passport, you can enter NK on a US passport. Granted, if they see your hometown is Langley, Virginia or you list your employer as "National Security Agency," then you may have a tougher go of it. – reirab Apr 14 '16 at 3:25
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The Schengen Embassies at Doha (Hungarian, Spanish, German, Italian) receptionists/officers answered me for the same query that I can bring my passport later for Visa Sticker Affixing, but it will take three working days apart from Decision Time. If I leave it with them, then they will do it in one go, n no extra days. And no third trip needed, only submission and collection.

Only Hungary one said they will stamp a page on my passport, and if I travel, I need to make sure other countries/people do not do anything on that page, because they will affix sticker only on that page.

Philippines Embassy Doha returned my passport on application submission date, even after my request for otherwise, and called me after three days to come and submit the passport, with Visa fees; and asked me to collect in day after tomorrow. So three trips in total.

4

They do it for multiple reasons:

  1. Avoid fraud. They keep the passport, to ensure the visa is being issued to the same passport.

  2. Often the document verification process takes places at a different location than the document collection process. This may be true if you are submitting your application at a consulate and not at the embassy proper; or you are using a third party service for processing documents. In this case, they need to keep your passport.

  3. In the case for my Schengen visa, the officer that accepted my documents wrote in pencil on the page where the visa will be stamped, and then mentioned this page in the application. I guess another security measure.

The above three from my own personal experience - again, it is all speculation. I suppose there is no harm for the embassy to stamp/affix the visa on the passport at the time of delivery - but from a risk/fraud point this is highly risky as you have risk of loss, duplication, mutilation, etc.

protected by Community Jun 25 '18 at 22:48

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