The European Union Takes Further Steps to Digitalize Schengen Visa Procedure

Published on: 13 June 2023

In a significant development, negotiators from the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament have provisionally agreed on the rules for Schengen visas digitalization. This achievement marks an important milestone in the EU’s efforts to modernize and streamline the process of applying for Schengen visas. The agreement, reached on Tuesday, June 13, 2023, paves the way for the adoption and implementation of a fully digital Schengen visa application process.

The negotiation process for digitalizing Schengen visas was initiated following the agreement reached among EU member states’ ambassadors on March 29, 2023, this agreement was made possible due to the negotiating mandate provided by the EU Council. However, the agreement still requires final approval from the EU member states before it can proceed for formal adoption by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, which are the key decision-making institutions of the EU.

Once the decision is officially approved by the EU institutions, applicants for Schengen visas will have the convenience of submitting their applications online through a single Schengen visa platform. This platform will enable applicants to enter their information, upload electronic copies of required documents such as passports and supporting documents, make electronic payments, and receive a fully digital visa upon approval, eliminating the need for traditional visa stickers. However, certain cases may still require applicants to visit embassies, consulates, or visa application centers in person, such as providing biometric data for first-time applicants or in cases where previously submitted biometric data has expired or a new travel document is presented.

The digitalization of Schengen visas aims to streamline the application and issuance process, while also addressing security concerns associated with counterfeit visa stickers and visa theft. Maria Malmer Stenergard, the Swedish Minister for Justice and Migration, emphasized the importance of the digital visa in achieving these objectives. According to Stenergard, the digital visa will simplify the application process for travellers, reduce the risk of falsification, and enhance the security of the Schengen area.

The European Commission had introduced the legislative proposal for digitalizing Schengen visa procedures on April 27, 2022. Following extensive discussions, members of the European Parliament agreed to adopt the proposal on January 31, 2023. Subsequently, the official procedures commenced to obtain the final approval and adoption of the proposed regulation by the EU decision-making institutions.

Currently, visa procedures for the Schengen area are largely paper-based, which can be costly for both travellers and Member States. The procedures to apply for a Schengen visa also differ from one Member State to another, and only a few countries have partial digitalized procedures in place. However, the introduction of the Digital Schengen Visa Regulation, which is currently undergoing approval procedures within the EU institutions, will gradually replace the existing system. This new regulation will establish a Single Digital Schengen Visa Platform, which will allow for more efficient and standardized visa procedures across all Member States. Member States will be allowed a 7-year transition period to join the new platform.The move towards digitalization the Schengen visa application process is a significant stride in enhancing efficiency, convenience, and security for both applicants and the Schengen area as a whole. As the digitalization initiative progresses, it is expected to facilitate smoother and more streamlined travel for individuals visiting the Schengen region.

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