In a significant move towards modernization, EU foreign ministers have recently given their nod to a transformative digitalization shift for Schengen visa applications. This groundbreaking decision aims to revolutionize the visa application process, making it more efficient and accessible for travellers.
Streamlining the Schengen Visa Process
The approved online platform promises to streamline the Schengen visa application process, eliminating the need for consulate appointments or visits to service providers’ offices. Notably, this digital transformation will also eliminate the issuance of physical stickers in passports.
The change, which follows an extensive months-long legislative process, is poised to take effect three weeks after publication in the EU’s administrative gazette. Anticipation is high for the imminent release of this publication.
Fernando Grande-Marlaska, Spain’s Interior Minister and the current holder of the EU presidency, expressed optimism about the forthcoming online visa system.
He emphasized that the new system “will simplify the application process for travellers,” marking a positive step towards enhanced efficiency and convenience.
Applying for Schengen E-Visas
Once implemented, the Schengen short-stay application process will involve online document submission, including travel documents with biometric data, and fee payment. Approved applicants will undergo database cross-checks and receive a digitally signed barcode for either printing or digital storage.
However, certain circumstances, such as being a first-time applicant or having new passports or updated biometric data, may necessitate an in-person appointment for added verification.
ETIAS Required for Some Countries
Citizens from over 60 countries, including Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States, will not need Schengen visas for short visits. However, they will soon be required to apply online for pre-screened entry via the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).
ETIAS is an electronic travel authorization system similar to the U.S. ESTA system. It aims to streamline travel authorization for eligible visitors to the Schengen Area.
Automated Entry/Exit System for All Visitors
All European Union visitors, whether with visas or visa waivers, will also be required to go through an automated EU Entry/Exit System (EES). The EES is a biometric system that will track the entry and exit of visitors to the Schengen Area.
The EES has been delayed in its implementation but is expected to be fully operational in 2023.
What is the Schengen Area?
The Schengen Area is a group of 26 European countries that have abolished passport and other border controls at their mutual borders. This means that visitors can travel freely between Schengen countries without having to show their passports at the border.
The Schengen Area includes 23 of the 27 EU member countries, plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.
The digitalisation of Schengen visa applications is a welcome development for travellers, making the visa application process easier and more convenient. It is also expected to reduce the burden on Schengen member states.
The ETIAS system and the EES are also designed to improve security and streamline travel for visitors to the Schengen Area.