In the next years, the lengthy Schengen visa application process will be entirely online.
The new digital system, suggested by the European Commission last week, will replace the time-consuming paper application procedure that millions of would-be visitors to Europe have to face. The European Commission has pledged that the system will be “smoother and more secure.”
“With several member states already converting to digital, it is critical that the Schengen area now moves forward as one,” said Margaritis Schinas, Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life.
The Schengen visa permits visitors to stay in 26 European nations for up to 90 days in a 180-day period for vacation or business. The travel zone includes the majority of EU nations, as well as Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, and Romania are not included. Most international nationals, including travellers from India, China, and South Africa, require a visa to enter the travel region.
The complete list of nations requiring a Schengen visa can be seen here. Americans, British, and Australians are among those who are exempt from the visa requirements. Over 15 million people used Schengen permits to travel around Europe in 2019. At the moment, prospective travellers must apply at the consulate of the nation in which they want to spend most of their time during their trip. They must then come to pick up their passports in person once the physical visa sticker has been applied.
This technique “proven troublesome during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the Commission. The processing time for a visa ranges from two weeks to 60 days. Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, stated that the time-consuming bureaucratic process must modernise.
“Half of the individuals arriving in the EU with a Schengen visa find the visa application process onerous, and one-third must travel great distances to apply for a visa,” she said.
“It is past time for the EU to establish a rapid, secure, and web-based EU visa application platform for people of the 102 third-country nationals who require a short-term visa to visit the EU.”
The European Commission set an aim of “completely digitising” visa operations by 2025 in The New Pact on Migration and Asylum. Visa applicants will be able to apply for a visa – and pay for it – through a single online EU platform. The platform will determine which Schengen country is in charge of reviewing an application. Applicants who plan to visit various European countries may find the paper method confusing at the time. Applicants who miss out on information and documents would be automatically notified under the digital system, saving them hours of work.
The visa will no longer be granted as a tangible sticker when it is issued. It will instead be delivered as a cryptographically signed 2D barcode. First-time candidates will still need to visit a consulate to obtain biometric identifiers.
The idea will need to be approved by the European Parliament and Council, but it is expected to pass. It will be introduced in parliament in the next months. With easy travel on the horizon, it may be time to start planning your fantasy European vacation.
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