EU agrees on plans to digitise visa application procedure
A new system provisionally agreed upon by the European Council and Parliament will see the current Schengen visa passport sticker replaced with an online application platform and e-visa.
European Council announces electronic visa plan
A press release published by the European Council has revealed that provisional agreements have now been made with the European Parliament to introduce a new electronic visa system for non-EU nationals who require a visa for the Schengen area. The policy was initially announced in the spring of 2022.
The Council said that the online visa application system means an e-visa would replace the current system, where travellers get a sticker for their passports. By introducing the new electronic system the Council said it hopes the visa application process will become more efficient and that security will be improved in the Schengen area.
At the moment, most non-EU nationals need a Schengen visa to enter the EU. People who hold passports from the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States or Canada - among other countries - do not need a Schengen visa, since they benefit from the ‘90-day-rule’, meaning they can enter and remain in the Schengen area for up to 90 in every 180 days without requiring a visa.
Speaking of the new provisional agreement, Swedish Minister for Migration said in the Council press statement, “The digital visa will make the application process easier for travellers, [it] simplifies the administrative procedure and increases the security of the Schengen area by for example reducing the risk of falsification and theft of the visa sticker." Under the current timeline, the new system will be introduced in 2026.
How will the electronic Schengen visa work?
The electronic Schengen visa still needs to be approved by each EU member state. If that happens, the new system would be used in all EU countries excluding Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus.
Though Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Switzerland are not EU member states, they are members of the Schengen Convention, which means that non-EU nationals who require a Schengen visa will also be able to use the new electronic system for visits to each of the four countries.
In its press release on Tuesday, the Council already revealed some rules which will apply once the new policy is adopted; it will be possible to submit Schengen visa applications on a single platform, where applicants will be able to upload all required documentation and pay any fees.
After submission, their application will be forwarded to the visa-issuing body of the relevant country and they will be notified of a decision on the same platform. If all goes to plan, it should be that only first-time applicants - those with new travel documents or whose biometric data is no longer valid - are required to attend an in-person consulate meeting.
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