Schengen visas online: a victory for travelers

The long process of obtaining a visa Schengen should go fully online within a few years.

The new digital system – proposed by the European Commission in mid-May – will replace the cumbersome paper-based application process faced by millions of potential visitors to Europe.

The travelers can expect a system”smoother and safer“, promised the European Commission.

While some Member States have already gone digital, it is vital that the Schengen area now moves forward as one“, said Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the Commission responsible for promoting our European way of life.

Do you need a Schengen visa?

Visa Schengen allows travelers to stay for tourism purposes or professional in 26 European countries for a maximum of 90 days over a period of six months.

The area of travel covers most EU countries, plus Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The following EU countries are excluded: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania.

Most foreign nationals require a visa to visit the travel zone, including visitors from India, China and South Africa.

The full list of countries that require a Schengen visa is available here . Americans, Britons and Australians are among those exempt from the visa rules.

In 2019, more than 15 million people used Schengen visas to travel to Europe.

How to apply for a Schengen visa?

At present, potential visitors must submit their application to the consulate of the country in which they intend to spend the most time during their trip.

They must then return, in person, to collect their passport once the physical visa sticker has been added.

According to the Commission, this process “proved problematic during the COVID-19 pandemic“.

Visa processing time ranges from two weeks to 60 days.

This cumbersome bureaucratic process must change, said EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson.

Half of people who come to the EU with a Schengen visa consider applying for a visa to be cumbersome, a third have to travel long distances to apply“, she said.

It is high time that the EU provides a fast, safe and online EU visa application platform for citizens of the 102 countries who need a visa to travel to the Union.”

How will the digital Schengen system work?

In the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, the European Commission has presented a goal of “full digitalisation” of visa procedures by 2025.

Visa applicants will be able to apply – and pay – through a single European online platform.

The platform will automatically determine which Schengen country is responsible for examining an application. Currently, the paper-based procedure can be confusing for applicants who intend to travel to multiple European countries.

Under the digital system, applicants who omit information and documents will be automatically notified, saving them hours of hassle.

Once issued, the visa will no longer be granted in the form of a physical sticker. Instead, it will be provided as a cryptographically signed 2D barcode.

First-time applicants will always have to go to a consulate to collect biometric identifiers.

The proposal will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council, but it should be adopted. It will be presented to Parliament in the coming months.

With hassle-free travel on the horizon, it might be time to start planning your dream vacation in Europe.

Article translated from English

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Schengen visas online: a victory for travelers

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