Digitisation of Visa Procedures for the Schengen Area
In an effort to streamline and modernise visa processes within the Schengen area, both the European Parliament and the Council have reached an agreement to fully digitise Schengen visa procedures.
These newly agreed-upon regulations aim to simplify and unify the visa application process through digitalisation. This benefits both third-country nationals applying for visas and the Member States responsible for issuing them.
Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, expressed her satisfaction with the political agreement, emphasising the importance of prioritising security and efficiency within the visa system. The introduction of digital visa stickers and an online application platform is set to achieve both goals. This regulation not only enhances the ability to combat fraud and counterfeiting but also streamlines the entire process for the benefit of both travellers and the European Union.
Current procedures are paper-heavy and costly
Presently, Schengen visa procedures are laden with paperwork, leading to significant costs for both travellers and Member States. The application processes differ across Member States and are only partially digitised in a few countries. Physical visa stickers are susceptible to forgery, fraud, and theft, issues that can be mitigated through digital visas.
The new EU Regulation focuses on two main aspects of the visa process: the digitisation of the visa sticker and the creation of an EU online visa application platform (EU-VAP).
Key features of the regulation include:
- Unified Online Application Platform: A single online platform is introduced for Schengen visa applications. This enables applicants to apply for a Schengen visa online, with a consistent visa fee across all countries, regardless of the destination within the Schengen area
- Digital Schengen Visa: The traditional physical visa sticker is replaced with a digital version that includes an encrypted 2D barcode. This digital visa is also valid for long-stay visas and will be issued even by EU countries that haven't fully adopted Schengen rules yet (Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus)
- Transitional Period: Member states are granted a seven-year transition period to implement the platform
The online visa application platform offers the following benefits:
- A secure account to submit applications and receive decisions online
- Access to the latest information about Schengen short-stay visas, including requirements and procedures (such as supporting documents, visa fees, or biometric appointments)
- Automatic identification of the responsible Schengen country for applications involving multiple Member States
- A user-friendly chatbot to assist applicants with inquiries
Formal adoption of this regulation is now pending with the European Parliament and the Council.