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EU Profits €56 Million from Rejected Schengen Visa Applications from African Countries in 2023

The European Union (EU) collected a staggering €56.3 million from visa application fees paid by African nationals in 2023. This figure represents a significant 43% of the total visa application expenses incurred by applicants worldwide.

African and Asian countries bore the brunt of visa rejections, accounting for 90% of all expenses related to Schengen visa applications. In 2023, rejection rates were particularly high for these regions, further exacerbating the financial burden on their citizens.

Starting next week, the financial strain on visa applicants is set to increase as the EU raises visa fees from €80 to €90, an uptick of 12.5%. Historically, African nationals have been among the top applicants for Schengen visas. However, they also face the highest rejection rates, with Algerians experiencing the most denials.

The Global Context

According to, the EU governments collectively earned €130 million from rejected Schengen visa applications in 2023, with African and Asian applicants disproportionately affected. In some African countries, such as Ghana, Senegal, and Nigeria, rejection rates soared to 40-50%.

These figures do not include the additional costs applicants incur, such as lost business and leisure opportunities or fees paid for legal advice and private visa processing agencies.

Visa Inequality and Its Consequences

Marta Foresti, founder of LAGO Collective and senior visiting fellow at the Overseas Development Institute, highlighted the severe impact of visa inequality. She stated, “Visa inequality has very tangible consequences and the world’s poorest pay the price.” Foresti likened the costs of rejected visas to “reverse remittances,” emphasizing the need to recognize these expenses when discussing aid and migration.

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The EU estimates that visa overstays account for about half of all irregular migrants within its 27 member states. In 2023, over 83,000 non-EU citizens were deported, resulting in a return rate of 19%, as reported by the EU Commission.

Visa Restrictions as a Political Tool

In recent years, the EU has increasingly used visa restrictions as a political tool. Article 25a of the 2019 visa code allows the EU to impose visa restrictions on countries with low rates of migrant returns. For instance, in April, the EU Council imposed visa sanctions on Ethiopia, including a ban on obtaining multiple-entry visas and the removal of visa fee exemptions for diplomatic and service passport holders. This decision was in response to Ethiopia’s lack of cooperation in returning its nationals who were staying illegally in EU countries.

Conversely, in the same month, the EU lifted visa restrictions on The Gambia after the country’s migrant return rate improved from 14% in 2022 to 37% in 2023. Additionally, EU ministers extended the processing time for visas from 15 days to 45 days for Ethiopia, citing the nation’s insufficient cooperation in returning its nationals.

The Financial Impact of Visa Rejections

The term ‘reverse remittances’ has been coined to describe the financial impact of visa rejections. These fees are non-refundable, regardless of whether the application is successful. The largest number of visa applications to the EU come from Morocco and Algeria. However, the overall data indicates that rejection rates for short-term visitor visas to Europe and the UK are higher for applicants from low and middle-income countries.

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In 2023, the cost of Schengen visa rejections reached €130 million, up from €105 million in 2022. The rejection rate is expected to rise further in 2024, following the EU Commission’s decision to increase the visa application fee for adults from €80 to €90, effective from June 11.

Meanwhile, the UK also profited from visa rejections, raising £44 million (€50 million) in fees. This financial aspect of visa applications underscores a significant source of revenue for European governments, often at the expense of applicants from poorer nations.

The financial implications of rejected Schengen visa applications are profound, particularly for African and Asian applicants who face high rejection rates and significant expenses. As the EU continues to adjust its visa policies and fees, the burden on these applicants is likely to increase. Addressing visa inequality and recognizing the hidden costs of rejected visas is crucial for creating a fairer and more equitable migration system.

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