- A legislation to strengthen the Visa Information System has received final approval from the European Council (VIS)
- The VIS database will contain long-term visas and resident permits
- Enhanced background checks and border security as a result of system improvements
The European Union has approved Visa Information System amendments (VIS). The rule was agreed by the EU Council on May 27, 2021, and final approval was provided on July 7, 2021.
VIS is one of the systems in charge of registering and screening those who apply for a Schengen visa or authorization to enter the Schengen Area.
Since its inception in 2011, VIS has shown to be a successful security solution. The upgrades will guarantee that VIS continues to provide Schengen citizens and visitors with a high degree of security.
This page discusses the Visa Information System regulatory amendments as well as general information about the database and how it operates.
CHANGES TO VISA INFORMATION SYSTEM REGULATION
The adopted regulation amending the Visa Information System is intended to:
- Make short-stay visa applications even more secure
- Add long-stay visas and residence permits to the VIS database
- Guarantee interoperability with other EU systems: Europol, ETIAS, EES, SIS, Eurodac, and ECRIS-TCN
A scanned copy of the biographical page of the travel document will now be included in the VIS database, and background checks will be increased.
Furthermore, the age at which children’s fingerprints will be obtained is being reduced from 12 to 6. This measure will aid in the search for missing children and the prevention of child trafficking.
The need of updating VIS was highlighted by Eduard Cabrita, Portugal’s Minister of Home Affairs, who stated:
“In recent years, the EU has worked constantly to enhance controls of persons entering the Schengen region, through the introduction of the travel authorisation system (ETIAS), the entry/exit system, and database interoperability.” The VIS upgrade is the next step in this approach. The new standards will allow for more thorough screening of visa applications in order to identify individuals who may constitute a security concern or who may be abusing our migration procedures.”
WHAT IS THE VISA INFORMATION SYSTEM FOR?
The Visa Information System is a database that helps with visa applications. VIS is used by border, migration, and immigration officials in EU member states for the reasons listed below.
VISA ISSUANCE AND BORDER CHECKS
Border guards can use VIS to ensure that the individual presenting a visa to enter the Schengen Area is the legitimate owner. They can also detect bogus visas from third-country nationals and prevent illicit EU border crossings.
Biometric information is a rapid and effective approach to verify a visa holder’s identification. When applying for a visa and crossing the border, fingerprints and a face photograph are obtained.
PREVENTING VISA MALPRACTICES
Although the EU states that the majority of individuals obey the regulations when applying for and travelling with a Schengen visa, mistakes do happen.
VIS aids in the prevention of abuses and fraudulent conduct such as visa shopping (see below).
PREVENTING IDENTITY THEFT
The Visa Information System safeguards travellers against identity fraud.
Fraudsters cannot enter Europe using documents that do not belong to them since biometric technology is used to verify a visa holder’s identification.
DETECTING AND INVESTIGATING CRIMINAL ACTIVITY
Law enforcement agencies employ VIS to assist detect and prevent major crime. VIS contributes to the safety of Schengen inhabitants and tourists against cross-border criminal activities.
ASYLUM APPLICATION ASSISTANCE
VIS, in conjunction with EURODAC, is a valuable tool for determining which EU member state is accountable for an asylum claim.
HOW DOES VIS WORK?
The Visa Information System verifies a traveler’s identification in three steps:
- The visa applicant’s 10 fingerprints and digital photo are taken
- Biometric data and application information stored on the central database
- At the external border, the visa holder’s fingerprints are compared against those in the database
If the fingerprints do not match, more tests will be performed. Children under the age of six, as well as those who are physically unable to submit prints, are excluded.
WHICH EU COUNTRIES SHARE VISA INFORMATION?
Through VIS, all Schengen countries share visa information. Denmark has likewise decided to use VIS. The central VIS system is connected to national systems, facilitating data interchange across Schengen countries.
Sharing information about application decisions is especially beneficial for eliminating ‘visa shopping.’ This is when foreigners apply for visas to other EU nations after their initial request was refused.
The operational administration of the visa information system falls within the purview of eu-LISA, the EU body in charge of large-scale IT systems.
VIS AND ETIAS APPLICATIONS
VIS is now used to evaluate visa applications and verify the identity of visa holders.
VIS will be participating in the ETIAS process beginning in November 2023. Before visiting the Schengen Area, visa-exempt third-country nationals must apply for ETIAS.
The information given on the ETIAS application form will be compared to data stored in security databases such as VIS.
As a result, only trustworthy travellers will be permitted visa-free entrance to the Schengen Area through ETIAS. The upcoming VIS enhancements will make ETIAS even more effective and efficient once it is implemented.
ACCESSING VIS AND DATA PROTECTION
Access to data held in the VIS database is restricted to the following individuals:
- Competent visa authorities—to examine applications and decisions
- Border authorities—when carrying out checks at borders to verify identity and check the traveller meets requirements to enter, stay, or reside in the country
- Asylum authorities—only to determine which EU state is responsible for an asylum application
- National authorities and Europol—in specific cases only to prevent and investigate crime.
Authorized individuals may only access VIS data as needed to complete their job.
HOW LONG IS PERSONAL DATA STORED IN VIS?
Personal data is retained in the Visa Information System for a period of five years, commencing with:
- The expiry date of the visa, or
- The date of a negative visa decision, or
- The date a decision was made to modify a visa.
Because data is kept for 5 years, regular travellers do not need to produce their prints every time they visit a Schengen country.
People have the right to have incorrect information corrected. Each member state has a National Supervisory Authority in place to ensure that data is processed lawfully. A European Data Protection Supervisor is also in place to monitor activity across the EU.