Everything we know about the EU plan to apply for a Schengen visa online by 2026
On Wednesday, the European Union Commission unveiled plans to digitize Schengen visa application procedures, a move warmly welcomed by travelers from countries under the Schengen visa regime.
Unveiling a proposal, which is first expected to be discussed by Parliament and Council soon, the European Commission has revealed some important details about how it plans to digitize Schengen visa application procedures.
Some of the main changes that are expected to happen are the establishment of a fully online procedure for travelers, including online fee payment here, as well as a system that will automatically make decisions on visa applications.
Commenting on the proposal on Wednesday 27 April, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said it was time for the EU to create an online EU visa application platform for citizens of the 102 third countries who need a visa to travel to the Schengen area.
“A modern visa procedure is essential to facilitate travel to the EU for tourism and business. Half of those arriving in the EU with a Schengen visa consider the visa application cumbersome, a third have to travel long distances to apply for a visashe said, stressing the importance of digitizing the Schengen visa application.
While the proposal is expected to initially be backed by both Parliament and Council, once that happens member states will have a five-year period to switch from manual visa applications to digital procedures.
Why is the EU now digitizing Schengen visa procedures?
The Schengen Visa Code first entered into force in 2010, while the Visa Information System (VIS) started operating a year later in 2011. Since then, the policy environment visa operations has changed significantly, mainly due to the growth of illegal migration and security challenges, as well as significant technological developments that can create ease for visa applicants and visa service providers.
Although the processing of Schengen visas is partly digitalised, a large part of the procedures remains on paper even in 2022, creating a burden for the competent authorities of the Member States as well as for applicants from third countries subject to the visa regime.
After several member states started digitizing parts of visa procedures individually, in 2017 the Estonian Council Presidency took the first step towards what was proposed last week, calling for the digitization of the Schengen visa process.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Schengen visa operations around the world were first halted and then only partially functioning, creating difficulties for consulates and applicants in the Schengen area. The situation had prompted Member States to ask the Commission to speed up its work and come up with a proposal in this regard.
How will digitized Schengen visa procedures work?
By 2026, the European Commission intends to launch a platform that will offer Schengen visa applicants the possibility to apply online, as well as up-to-date information on Schengen short-stay visas.
Irrespective of their Schengen country of destination or the type of Schengen visa they are applying for, travelers will need to complete a visa application form on the same platform, upload a scanned copy of their travel document, travel health insurance, as well as the rest. documents required for the application.
“Each applicant must submit a completed application form using the EU application platform, including a declaration of authenticity, completeness, accuracy and reliability of the data submitted and a declaration of truthfulness and reliability of statements. madenotes the Commission’s proposal.
In cases where the applicant intends to visit more than one Schengen country, the platform will automatically decide which Schengen country is responsible for processing the application. The request will then be transferred to the competent national system of that Member State for processing.
In accordance with the collection of biometric data, only those who apply for a Schengen visa for the first time will have to present themselves to a consulate or an external visa processing provider in order to give their fingerprints and have their photo taken.
“Repeat applicants should be able to apply fully online within 59 months of their initial successful application, provided they apply with the same travel document. Once this period has elapsed, the biometric data must be collected again“, explains the proposal.
In the case of minor applicants, a person exercising permanent or temporary parental authority or legal guardianship must make the application on their behalf.
Applicants who have not completed their application with the correct information/documents will be notified by the system. Once the traveler has completed his application and it is processed by the Member State concerned, the latter must inform the traveler of the decision that has been taken, indicating whether the visa is issued, refused, confirmed on a new travel document, extended, canceled or revoked.
Once issued, the visa will no longer be granted in its current form, such as a sticker, but digitally,”in the form of a 2D barcode, cryptographically signed by the Country Signing Certificate Authority (CSCA) of the issuing Member State“, indicates the Commission.
Pay Schengen visa fees online
The platform will also allow Schengen visa fees to be paid using a third-party gateway linked to the online application platform. Payments will be transferred directly to the Member State processing the application.
Visa fees will not change and visa waiver and facilitation agreements will continue to apply.
>> New Schengen visa rules start to apply February 2 – Visa fee hike and other changes explained
Complete the Schengen visa application form online
The online Schengen visa application form will be quite similar to the existing forms. It will have to be completed in the new platform and will request the following personal data from the visa applicant:
- Name and nickname
- Date, place and country of birth
- current nationality, nationalities at birth, if different, other nationalities
- gender & marital status
- in the case of minors, the parental authority/legal guardian must also provide their information
- National identity number, if applicable
- type and number of the travel document, date and place of issue, and its expiry date
- personal address and e-mail address, telephone number, residence in a country other than the country of current nationality
- current occupation, employer and employer’s address and telephone number
- for students: name and address of the educational institution
- the purpose of the trip
- the main destination in the Schengen area and the list of countries planned to visit, as well as the Member State of first entry
- number of entries requested, expected date of arrival of the first planned stay in the Schengen area; Intended date of departure from the Schengen area after the first intended stay
- fingerprints previously collected for the purpose of applying for a Schengen visa, date (if known) and visa number if known
- host/invitee information, if any
- how travel and living expenses during the applicant’s stay are covered
All information entered in this form will be recorded and temporarily stored.
Which countries will use the platform
The 26 countries of the Schengen area will use the platform. As for the other five non-Schengen EU countries, Ireland, as a non-Schengen member by choice, is not required to participate in the platform.
The other four, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, which are currently trying to integrate the Schengen area and partially apply the Schengen acquis, will have to continue to issue visas in the form of a uniform format. (thumbnail).
“In order to allow the application of Decision No 565/2014/EU, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania should have read-only access to the digital visas stored in the VIS“, indicates the Commission.
The system will also be used for issuing long-term visas
The platform will not be used exclusively for Schengen visa applications, as the Commission intends to modify the platform so that long-term visas issued by Member States, also known as national visas, can be issued in digital format.
How much will it cost the EU to create such a platform?
According to the estimates of the European Commission, the EU will have to spend between 33.8 and 41.2 million euros for the creation of this platform. After its establishment, the operating and maintenance costs will amount to an annual cost of between EUR 10.5 million and EUR 12.8 million, including ten staff for eu-LISA.
This means that, on average, Member States will have to invest between 2.5 and 3 million euros for the creation of the platform, then between 270,000 and 330,000 euros for its annual maintenance.
The Commission stresses, however, that the costs of running the platform will largely depend on the number of visa applications a Member State receives each year.
When will the platform become fully operational?
The Commission plans to start development of the platform in two years, in 2024, and to make it fully operational by 2026. However, Member States will have five years to switch from current visa processing methods. to digital.
This means that by 2031, it is expected that all Schengen visa applications will be submitted and processed digitally, regardless of the visa applicant’s Schengen area destination.
What about visa-free countries?
Travelers from more than 60 countries in the world under the Schengen visa-free regime will not be affected by this platform in any way.
However, from next year, these travelers will have to apply online for a European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), which is expected to be launched by the end of this year.
The ETIAS will be a document for which travelers will have to apply entirely online and will only cost €7 per person. It will be valid for a period of three years initially or until the travel document expires, whichever comes first. Travelers will need to carry the confirmation they receive in their email when applying and present it to border officials each time they travel to the Schengen area.
The program was created for the bloc’s purpose of tracking visitors from visa-free countries and thereby enhancing security in Europe for European citizens and travelers. The EU expects ETIAS to contribute to reducing security problems on its territory, illegal migration and terrorist threats.
>> 1.4 billion people obliged to apply for an ETIAS when traveling in the EU by the end of 2022