The EU Member States’ ambassadors today agreed the Council’s negotiating mandate for a proposal to digitalise the visa procedure. The proposal introduces the possibility to apply for a visa online and replaces the current visa sticker with a digital visa. It aims to make the visa application procedure more efficient and to improve the security of the Schengen Area.
A digital Schengen visa will make it easier for legitimate travellers to apply and will at the same time help make the Schengen area safer.Maria Malmer Stenergard, Swedish Minister for Migration
“Online applications will reduce the number of trips to the consulate for travellers and make the process smoother for national administrations. At the same time, the digital visa will put an end to the risk of falsification and theft of the visa sticker”, explained.
The proposed new rules will create a visa application platform. All applications for Schengen visas will be made through this platform, a single website, which will forward them to the relevant national visa systems. On this platform, visa applicants will be able to introduce all relevant data, upload electronic copies of their travel- and supporting documents, and pay their visa fees. They will also be notified of the decisions concerning their visa. In-person appearance at the consulate will only be necessary for first-time applicants, persons whose biometric data are no longer valid and those with a new travel document.
When a person intends to visit several Schengen countries, the platform will automatically determine which one of them is responsible for examining the application on the basis of the duration of stay. However, the applicant will also have the possibility to indicate whether the application needs to be processed by a specific member state according to the purpose of travel.
Under the proposed new rules, visas will be issued in digital format, as a 2D barcode, cryptographically signed. This will reduce security risks related to counterfeit and stolen visa stickers.
The European Commission submitted the legislative proposal for digitalising the visa procedure in April 2022. “A modern visa process is crucial. It’s time to provide a fast, secure, web-based application platform for citizens of the 102 third countries that require a short-term visa to travel to the EU”, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said at the time.
Now that the Council has agreed on negotiating the mandate, the institution will start dialogues with the European Parliament to agree on the final details.
The new Schengen visa system is different from ETIAS (European Travel Information System), which is currently under development. ETIAS will be used by travellers outside the EU who are exempt from visas but need to apply for travel authorization to come to the EU.