The European Council and the European Parliament have provisionally agreed on rules to digitalize the Schengen visa application process by allowing visa nationals to apply for visas online and by replacing the current visa sticker with a digital visa.
These measures are aimed at increasing the efficiency of the application process, making it easier for travelers to apply for visas, and to improve security in the Schengen Area, by reducing the risk of falsification and theft of visas.
The agreement with the new digitalization rules will not go into effect until the European Council and European Parliament finalize the formal adoption process. Major changes to the agreed text are nevertheless not expected.
A closer look
When adopted, the agreement will lead to the creation of an online visa application platform. The platform will allow visa nationals to upload all relevant data for their visa applications, including supporting documents, and will allow them to pay visa fees. The platform will also be used to notify applicants of the decisions on their applications.
In-person consular appearances:
After the adoption of the new platform, in-person consular visa appointments will only need to be made for initial applications, for those whose biometric data is no longer valid, or for applicants with a new travel document.
Rules for visits to multiple Schengen countries:
For individuals who are seeking to travel to multiple Schengen countries, the new platform will automatically determine which country is responsible for reviewing the application based on the duration of stay in each country; however, applicants will also be able to indicate whether the application should be processed by a specific member state based on their travel purpose.
The change in application process will not affect visa-exempt nationals, who will be subject to the European Travel Information and Authorisation System when it is implemented.
Issuance of digital visas:
The new visas will be issued as a 2D barcode in the applicant’s passport, instead of the current visa sticker.
The digitalisation of the Schengen visa application procedures is intended to increase the efficiency of the application process, as in-person consular appearances will be limited. Further, digitalisation will increase security in the Schengen Area, by reducing the risk of falsification and theft of visas.
The need for the digitalisation of visas processes has become increasingly important as the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down visa processing operations and irregular migration to the Schengen Area and other security risks to the region have increased.
In order for the new rules to go into effect, the agreement must be formally approved by the Council and the European Parliament, which is expected to happen in the coming months. It is likely that a transition period of several years will exist where applications will be submitted both according to the current process and through the online platform. EU countries will be allowed to gradually implement digital processes throughout this transition period.