Sometimes even the experts get it wrong.
The previous reporting that indicated that travelers from Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia would face higher Schengen zone visa fees was apparently incorrect according to multiple people familiar with the situation at hand. The controversy erupted over the implementation of the new Schengen Visa Code which debuted on the 2nd of February of this year.
Reports had stipulated a 33.3% increase in the fee for travelers from the above mentioned countries but this is a misunderstanding as to how the visa facilitation agreements between the European Union and the three countries works. These agreements stipulate a price of €35 and this is secured through bilateral agreements between the EU and the origin nations of Armenia, Russia, and Azerbaijan.
A representative from the European Commission confirmed this, stating, “The visa facilitation agreements in place between the EU and Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia provide for a lower visa fee set at €35… the increase of the general visa fee in the revised visa rules has no impact on this lower visa fee set in the Visa Facilitation Agreements.”
What are facilitation agreements and how are they used in relation to the European Union and the Schengen zone?
In its most basic form, a visa facilitation agreement is an instrument between the European Union’s Schengen zone and outside countries for optimized ease of access. Among other things, these agreements stipulate pricing and other efficiencies that are intended to promote travel between the two countries. You can think of these agreements as special arrangements between the relevant EU bodies and other nations.
As luck would have it, you can probably already guess which nations have agreed to these kinds of arrangements with the European Union.
Currently, there are three facilitation agreements that the EU has and they are with Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Because of this special status, those unfamiliar with the nuances of the Schengen zone could be mistaken in believing the general price hikes apply to everyone.
Even though these nationals won’t be subjected to a price hike in terms of visa application fees, there are other changes that travelers from these countries should be aware of as part of the changes enacted by the February 2nd new code.
These changes include an extension from three months to six months prior to travel for visa applications. Additionally, all visa application procedures between all Schengen members will be governed by a uniform system that has paperwork that can be completed electronically where possible. There is also the introduction of a new multiple-entry visa for frequent travelers that lasts for up to five years.