The European Commission has officially proposed that the Schengen Visa application process be mad digital, simpler, and more secure, according to an announcement published by the Commission.
In the new process, the issuance of Schengen Visas will become fully digitalized, replacing the current sticker visa, and can be done through the European online visa platform.
The full list of proposed changes to the process include the following:
- Applications for a Schengen Visa can be made completely online through a single EU platform. This includes making payments for applications, regardless of which Schengen Member State the applicant wishes to visit.
- The single EU platform will be able to automatically determine which Member State is responsible for handling Schengen Visa applications, especially when an applicant wishes to visit several Member States.
- The platform will be able to provide applicants with current and up-to-date information regarding Schengen short-stay visas as well as all information on the requirements and procedures for obtaining visas.
- Appearing in-person to a Schengen Member State’s consulate mission would only be mandatory for first time applicants to collect biometric identifiers. However, an in-person appearance would also be mandatory for applicants whose biometric data have expired, or applicants who are using a new travel document, such as a new passport.
- The current visa sticker for passports would be replaced with a potentially digital version which, according to the Commission, would make visas more secure.
The proposed changes to the Schengen Visa application process, if voted into force, are set to take place by 2025 as part of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.
The changes to the visa process are part of a larger EU effort to modernize Schengen Visas.
Currently, applying for a Schengen Visa is a lengthy process that requires many applicants to travel long distances to a Member State’s consulate mission, which is costly in time and resources for both applicants and Member States.
Although some Member States have already moved their application processes online and a few others have made it possible to pay online, these processes are not uniform with the rest of the EU.
“A modern visa process is crucial to make travel to the EU easier for tourism and business. Half of those coming to the EU with a Schengen visa consider the visa application burdensome, one-third have to travel long distance to ask for a visa. It is high time that the EU provides a quick, safe and web-based EU visa application platform for the citizens of the 102 third countries that require short term visa to travel to the EU.”
Another goal of the digitalization of visas is to avoid ‘visa shopping’ by third country applicants, which is when an applicant will apply for a visa to a Member State for a faster processing time, without the intention of ever visiting that Member State.
The changes also aim to combat security risks with the current visa sticker process. This is because these stickers are prone to theft, fraud, and falsification.
The next step is for the Commission and Council to discuss the changes. If an agreement is made, Member States will have five years to switch their visa application processes over to the common online visa platform.
Development of the platform could start in 2024 based on the outcomes of negotiations, and could go active by 2026. With the five year transition period, all Member States could be using the platform by 2031.