Social networks practically only talk about that! This year, with the recent opening of the borders, it’s the rush on the BLS and TLS platforms to go to Spain or France, two key destinations for Moroccans. Only, the appointments are practically impossible to find and the delays for obtaining the visa are getting longer, sometimes compromising the travels of many people. On social networks, many denounce a whole ecosystem that has grown up around visas: appointments are sold by “intermediaries” or “agencies” who compete in ingenuity to offer the best prices. A seemingly lucrative business. Investigation.
After two years of health crisis, Moroccans are waiting for the summer holidays on hot coals. Emboldened by the lifting of restrictive measures, many have started planning their trip abroad. But things don’t go as planned for everyone. If for some destinations, the process to obtain the visa is quite fluid, for others, it turns out to be rather complicated. This is particularly the case for people who wish to go to France or Spain. Two favorite destinations for Moroccans.
Hard, hard to find an appointment for the visa!
As summer approaches, requests for visas to go there are skyrocketing. If several people have had to face refusals, others do not even manage to get an appointment. The subject ignites social networks. Internet users share their misadventures and call on the authorities to find a solution. “When we decided to go to Spain this summer, we were far from imagining that we were going to struggle so much, just to get an appointment for the Schengen visa. I have been trying my luck every day for more than two weeks, but in vain”, laments Loubna, in a group of Moroccan travelers on Facebook. “In the beginning, it was absolutely necessary to log in every half hour, because the system showed a few empty dates in green. But the time to fill in the data, either it takes us back to the home page, or it blocks. Now, day or night, there is nothing at all. You only have to see my history to get an idea of the number of tests I have carried out so far. We are waiting for someone to come across the opening of the dates for the month of June to try. It is very painful! In the news, they said that the authorities would facilitate the procedure. There, we simply ask to be given the possibility of making an appointment, we are not even talking about accepting or refusing the granting of the visa, ”she develops. “I know a lot of people who have been able to get their visa to go to Spain in the last few days. They have even been granted fairly long terms, three months and more. Luckily, these people took care of it in advance. But now it feels like it’s dead. It is absolutely necessary to find a plan B. Just to make an appointment to file our files, we are shown all the colors!” adds another Internet user.
According to testimonies of people who have won the sesame, it takes 1 month and 20 days for a visa to Spain, or even beyond. Suffice to say that the summer holidays are compromised and that it is necessary to change plans. A situation that is strongly denounced. Dozens of testimonials are published every day on social networks. Visa applicants, especially in the centers of Casablanca and Rabat, are in despair and wondering why scheduling an appointment has become so difficult. To be sure, the editorial staff of “Le Matin” tried to book on the BLS International site, the most popular at this time, but no date is available by the end of May. Why ?
The lucrative business of intermediaries
The difficulty in obtaining an appointment to submit the visa application is mainly due to intermediaries, according to our investigations and numerous testimonies. “To make an appointment, you absolutely have to pay a “semsar”, otherwise there is no way to find a free slot. When scam and bribery even interfere with our vacation plans, and no one says anything. It’s shameful!” protests a surfer. “It has become a dating mafia. The site crashes each time the dates are available, it has become practically impossible to reserve a slot,” testifies another person.
To protest, people talk about a project of petition against intermediaries to make their voices heard and stop this practice. “We absolutely have to do something to stop this. Starting a petition is a very good idea. It seems that this was also the case in another Maghreb country and that after the large-scale petition, the consular services changed the service provider, ”says Adil on Facebook.
According to these shares on social networks, intermediaries would make rain or shine. More and more of them are offering their services online. They monopolize practically all the appointments for submitting files as soon as they are available, before selling them at a high price to certain visa applicants. Just type BLS or TLS on the search bar on Facebook to come across a list of intermediaries or pseudo “agencies” who promise the famous appointments by simply contacting them on a WhatsApp number. “Le Matin” tried to join two of them, pretending to be “customers”, to better understand the workings of this business. Very responsive, these people simply ask for a copy of the first page of the passport. We also learned that the price varies by city. Casablanca and Rabat are the most expensive. The price also depends on the number of people who will travel. For a family of 4, for example living in Casablanca, this appointment will cost between 400 and 600 DH per traveler. This amount can reach 1,000 DH for a person traveling alone. “Our intermediaries” explained to us that they have special scripts allowing them to intercept appointments as soon as they appear on the platforms. But right now they don’t have anything to offer until early June, because everything is full. Unfortunately, we were unable to cross-check this information with the BLS International and TLS Contact Morocco centers, which remained unreachable, nor to question them on the ins and outs of this situation, which is unprecedented to say the least.
Anticipate to avoid the problem of saturation of appointment slots
Asked by us, a source from the Spanish Embassy preferred to take time and promised to provide us with answers later. On the other hand, we were able to reach an official at the French Embassy who recommended that visa applicants never use intermediaries to find an appointment. “Any visa applicant wanting to get an appointment should have it. It is completely legitimate. The problem arises during certain periods such as summer holidays. We must try to anticipate so as not to be confronted with the problem of saturation of appointment slots. We also recommend, at the level of the embassy and the general consulates, to all visa applicants to connect personally to the appointment platform and never to use the services of so-called intermediaries”, indicates our source. And to add that “since the opening of air links, we have noticed that the demand for visas has been very strong in recent months. And faced with this demand, we are opening many appointment slots which are differentiated according to the type and duration of the visas requested. To avoid refusals, it is important to have a very complete file with all the supporting documents as indicated on the France Visa website. Even if there is indeed a quota of visas that cannot be exceeded, a large number of refusals are motivated by incomplete, erroneous and sometimes false information, concerning hotel reservations, in particular”.
For lack of a visa, travelers fall back on Turkey
The next summer holidays mark the great return of travel abroad. Travel agencies, heavily impacted by the health crisis, have resumed their old habits and have prepared several offers adapted to different tastes and budgets. Will the complications in obtaining the Schengen visa noted by the applicants have a negative impact on their activity? Apparently not. “We have prepared various offers for Spain: Las Palmas, Costa del Sol, Andalusia, Barcelona, Madrid… But also for Portugal and France, for short and medium durations. These are, in fact, the most popular destinations for Moroccans for the summer. Until then, we do not see any problems with reservations. Our customers arrive with their visa as usual and choose the formula they prefer. We have noticed, moreover, that most of the people who have not been able to obtain their visa are opting for Turkey this year”, tells us a marketing manager from a travel agency in Marrakech. Same story with two other tour operators in Casablanca.