- By 2025, the Schengen visa application should be entirely digital.
- Travel to the EU should be made simpler as a result, for both travellers and visa agencies.
The Schengen visa will soon be digital, according to the European Commission. This indicates that an easy online platform, similar to the electronic ETIAS application, will soon make it feasible to apply for visas to Europe.
At the moment, obtaining a Schengen visa requires visiting an embassy or consulate of the country of destination. Appointments in person would no longer be necessary thanks to an online platform.
During the COVID-19 epidemic, the drawbacks of an in-person application procedure were further underlined. It was almost hard for applicants to physically travel to a visa appointment at this period.
The Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, stated that “a modern visa process is important to make travel to the EU easier for tourism and business.”
WHY THE COMMISSION IS DIGITALISING THE SCHENGEN VISA
Globally, more and more nations are digitising their visa applications. There are several distinct online visa portals for EU members already.
However, some of them do not support online payments and do not have a cohesive look.
The creation of a single electronic site for the Schengen visa by EU nations has been mandated by the European Commission.
Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, stated that it is crucial that the Schengen Area go forward as a unit since that several Member States have already made the changeover to digital.
Other justifications for the switch to digital technology include:
- Replaces the heavily paper-based process currently in place
- Removes the need for a physical stamp in the applicant’s passport
- Reduces security risks posed by paper documents such as falsification, fraud and theft
- Unifies the online visa applications for different member states
- Reduces costs for both travellers and Member States
- Helps to avoid ‘visa shopping’ by those who may attempt to apply thro
In most situations, there would be no need to apply in person for a Schengen visa if it were available online. The only exceptions would be for candidates who are submitting their biometric information for the first time or whose biometric information is no longer accurate.
BACKGROUND OF THE SCHENGEN VISA DIGITALISATION PROCESS
A digitalized Schengen visa was first proposed in 2018. The European Commission underlined the importance of digital visas at the time it suggested changing the Visa Code.
In 2019, the European Parliament Council then started updating the EU Visa Code. They said that the goal was to provide a uniform solution to let Schengen visa applications to be submitted online by fully using current legal and technical improvements.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the ability of embassies and consulates to process applications, Schengen visa procedures were slowed down globally in 2020. As a result, fresh requests for the process’ digitization came from member states.
The Commission suggested a Pact on Migration and Asylum in September 2020. By 2025, the entire Schengen visa application process was to be digital.
WHEN WILL THE SCHENGEN VISA BE DIGITALISED?
The complete digitalization of the Schengen visa by 2025 was the original goal of the Pact on Migration and Asylum. It now appears that the plan will need more time to implement.
The European Parliament and Council will now debate the new digitalization plan that the Commission has tabled. The unified digital Schengen visa platform will thereafter be implemented over the course of five years by Schengen Member States.
Depending on how discussions between the co-legislators turn out, development of the digital Schengen visa platform might begin in 2024. It may start operating as soon as 2026.
Then a five-year transition period would be in effect. By 2031, all Member States would be able to use the online Schengen Visa system.
As a result, the digital Schengen visa won’t be available until after the online ETIAS application. By November 2023, the ETIAS will be operational.
WHO WILL BE ABLE TO OBTAIN THE SCHENGEN VISA ONLINE?
All foreign nationals who intend to visit any country in the Schengen Area but require a visa will be able to do so by submitting a digital Schengen visa application. Instead, citizens without visas will need to register with ETIAS.
According to Ylva Johansson, commissioner for home affairs, “it is high time that the EU provides a rapid, safe, and web-based EU visa application platform for the inhabitants of the 102 third countries that require short term visas to travel to the EU.” Except for Ireland, it is anticipated that all of the EU’s 27 member states would adopt the platform.
Not anticipated to be included are nations like Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, and Cyprus that have not yet ratified the Schengen Agreement. This is due to the fact that neither of them now issues Schengen visas nor has access to the Visa Information System (VIS).