The European Commission (EC) said on April 27 that it was proposing the digitalisation of the Schengen visa process, replacing the visa sticker, and introducing the possibility to submit visa applications online through the European online visa platform.
The New Pact on Migration and Asylum set the objective to fully digitalise visa procedures by 2025, the EC said.
“It is an opportunity to effectively improve the visa application process by reducing the costs and the burden on member states as well as the applicants, while also improving the security of the Schengen area,” the statement said.
The EC said that several member states had taken steps to move visa applications online but there are differences in the extent to which they had done this. Only a few offer the possibility of paying online.
These procedures also proved problematic during the Covid-19 pandemic where applicants were no longer able to freely go to consulates to apply for visas, the EC said.
It said that harmonising and unifying visa application procedures within the Schengen area will help to avoid so called “visa shopping” by applicants who may be tempted to lodge an application with a Schengen country that offers faster visa application processing than with a country that is actually their destination.
The digitalisation of the visa process will also reduce security risks posed by the physical visa stickers, which could still be prone to falsification, fraud and theft, the EC said.
It said that through digitalisation, applying for a Schengen visa will become easier and the visa itself will be more secure, it said.
Visa applicants will be able to apply for a visa online, including paying the visa fee through a single EU platform, regardless of the Schengen country they want to visit.
The platform will automatically determine which Schengen country is responsible for examining an application, in particular when the applicant intends to visit several Schengen countries.
The platform will provide applicants with up-to-date information on Schengen short-stay visas, as well as all necessary information regarding the requirements and procedures (such as supporting documents, visa fee or the need for an appointment to collect biometric identifiers).
Appearing in person at the consulate would only be mandatory for first time applicants for the collection of biometric identifiers, for applicants whose biometric data are no longer valid or those with a new travel document.
The visa will include state-of-the-art security features, which will be more secure than the current visa sticker.
The new system will ensure that fundamental rights are always protected, the EC said.
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