For Indian passport holders, obtaining a Schengen visa is usually a daunting task, even when all the necessary documents and finances are in order. Moreover, due to pandemic-induced closures for a prolonged period, there is now a lengthy waiting list just to schedule an appointment for submission.
However, the process may soon become more convenient.
EU to Digitize Schengen Visa Process
As previously reported, the European Union (EU) is considering digitising the Schengen visa application process. This would imply that most travellers, including those from India, would not need to make an appointment, visit the VFS in person, or wait in long lines to submit an application.
Instead, all document submission processes could be completed online, and visas could be obtained online as well.
On March 29, the EU Council issued a press release stating that the ambassadors of EU member states had agreed to the Council’s negotiating mandate for a proposal to digitalize the visa procedure.
The proposal would allow people to apply for visas online and replace the current visa sticker with a digital visa.
If the proposal is approved, the following changes would be implemented:
- Single Visa Application Platform: A single visa application platform or website would be created for Schengen visa applications.
- Electronic Submission of Documents: Applicants would have to upload electronic copies of their travel and supporting documents and pay the visa fee.
- Automatic Processing: If an applicant wishes to visit multiple Schengen countries, the platform will automatically decide which country’s system will process the application, based on the duration of the stay. The applicant will also be allowed to specify a particular Schengen country that needs to approve the travel.
- Online Notification of Decision: The decision on the visa will be communicated online. Visas will be issued in a digital format with a 2D barcode that is cryptographically signed to reduce security risks associated with counterfeit and stolen visa stickers.
However, first-time applicants or those with new travel documents or invalid biometric data will still need to appear in person at the consulate to make their application.
Reasons for Digitisation
The digitisation of the Schengen visa application process aims to improve efficiency, particularly in the face of pandemic backlogs, and to increase security.
According to Maria Malmer Stenergard, Sweden’s Minister for Migration, the digital visa will eliminate the risk of visa sticker falsification and theft. It is also intended to make visa processing easier for national governments.
In conclusion, the proposed digitization of the Schengen visa application process would greatly benefit Indian passport holders by simplifying the visa application process, reducing wait times, and increasing security.
If approved, it would make it easier and more convenient for Indian tourists and business travellers to visit Europe.