European Union countries endorsed on February 20 an agreement reached by the European Parliament and the European Council on a European Commission proposal to modernise the EU’s common visa policy, adapting the rules to evolving security concerns, challenges linked to migration and new opportunities offered by technological developments, the Commission said.
“The agreed changes will make it easier for legitimate travellers to obtain a visa to come to Europe, facilitating tourism, trade and business, whilst strengthening security and reducing irregular migration risks.”
The new rules include in particular:
More flexible procedures: Travellers will be able to submit their applications up to six months in advance of their planned trip (nine months for seafarers), instead of the current three months, and in most cases, directly from their country of residence. Where available, they may also fill in and sign their applications electronically. Minors between 6 and 18 years old may be exempted from the visa fee.
Multiple entry visas with longer validity: Thanks to the introduction of common mandatory rules, frequent travellers with a positive visa history can receive a multiple-entry visa with a gradually increasing validity period from one year to a maximum of five years, saving time and costs for applicants and EU countries. Travellers’ fulfilment of entry conditions will be “thoroughly and repeatedly verified in all cases”, the Commission said.
Additional resources for strengthening security: In view of significantly increased processing costs over the past years, a “moderate” increase of the visa fee (from 60 euro to 80 euro) will be introduced. “This modest increase will allow member states to maintain adequate levels of consular staff worldwide to ensure stronger security screenings, as well as the upgrading of IT equipment and software, without representing an obstacle for the visa applicants.”
Improving co-operation on readmission: The conditions for processing visa applications can be adapted depending on whether a third country (meaning, a non-EU country) co-operates satisfactorily on the return and readmission of irregular migrants, including as regards the maximum processing time of applications, the length of validity of visas issued, the level of the visa fee and the exemption of such fees for certain travellers.
The European Parliament and the EU Council reached a provisional agreement on the Commission’s proposal to modernise the EU visa policy on January 29.
The agreement, confirmed by member states on February 20, will now have to be endorsed also by the European Parliament.
The European Parliament and the Council will then have to formally adopt the Regulation. The adopted text will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and the new rules will apply six months later.
In parallel, negotiations are ongoing on the Commission’s proposal to upgrade the Visa Information System (the database containing information on persons applying for Schengen visas). This upgrade is also part of the reform of the common EU visa policy and aims to better secure the EU’s external borders, the Commission said.