The digital reform of the procedure for issuing Schengen visas was discussed by the EU ambassadors, a common position was agreed and a negotiating mandate was approved.
In essence, this is a scheme for the functioning of an online platform EU to receive visa applications. Paper visa to Europe will become digital. The mandate of the European Council on the digitalization of the visa procedure, agreed by the ambassadors of the EU member states, will be submitted for discussion to all EU countries. The document describes the main procedures for the functioning of the single EU visa platform. The initiators of the reform explain that the new scheme:
- relieve travelers from the need to personally apply to visa centers and consulates of different countries;
- make the procedure transparent for applicants;
- reduce the burden on those who process applications and issue visas.
The European Commission and the European Council note:
“While visa processing has already been partially digitized and applications and decisions are registered in the VIS (Visa Information System), two important steps remain paper-based: the visa application process and issuance to the applicant with a sticker. This creates a burden for all stakeholders, in particular the authorities of the EU countries issuing visas and visa applicants. The digital visa will put an end to the risk of forgery and fraud with conventional visas.”
A little about how all this will work. Applications for Schengen visas will be submitted through a single platform that will direct them to the national visa systems of the EU member states. On the common portal, visa applicants will be required to enter all the necessary personal data, upload electronic copies of passports and documents confirming the purpose of the trip, and pay visa fees. Applicants will be notified of the decisions made – a positive outcome or refusal. For some, you still need a personal presence at the consulate, you will have to visit it:
- those who apply for a visa for the first time;
- persons whose biometric data in the VIS system is no longer valid;
- holders of new passports.
When an applicant indicates an intention to visit several Schengen countries, the platform will automatically determine which of these countries will be responsible for examining his application, based on the length of the intended stay. However, applicants will still be able to indicate whether they want their application to be processed by a particular Schengen Member State according to the purpose of the trip.
Under the new rules, all visas will be issued digitally, with a cryptographic signature, in the form of a 2D barcode. They will contain an image of a person’s face. ATOR Bulletin drew attention to several key points that are not mentioned in official press releases.
Not without checks. Surely later there will be a list of reasons why the applicant will have to appear at the consulate in person. Among those already voiced are verification of previously made biometrics, an interview to clarify the purpose of the visit, suspicion of fraud.
At the same time, the visa project leaves open the possibility of filing applications by commercial intermediaries, i.e. tour operators will be able to apply for clients. The payment of the visa fee (€80) must be made through a third-party gateway. Payments will be fully transferred directly to the EU country that will issue the visa. In cases where the applicant is unable to make an electronic payment, the visa fee must be collected by the consulates or the external service provider.
That is, in the case of Russian applicants who do not have a foreign bank card, the payment of the visa fee will be carried out “in the old fashioned way” – through the visa center or consulate, where you will have to come in person. Yes, and registration at the visa centers will not go anywhere: those who need to take biometrics will have to contact the visa provider, pre-register and come at the appointed time.
It is understood that the EU visa platform will allow the applicant to correct the application if, during the automatic pre-screening phase, it is rejected due to errors or lack of requested data. A lot of information will be required from the applicant, including the IP address from which the application form was sent. At the transitional stage (within 5-7 years), the EU countries will not be able to use the digital visa platform.
To create and launch a digital visa platform, tells GreekReporter, it will take at least 5 years. However, given that the creation of other systems related to entry / exit from the EU (for example, EES and ETIAS) has been constantly delayed, it can be assumed that the deadlines for launching the visa project will not be met. As a temporary reference point for readiness to launch the system, the date of December 1, 2026 is indicated in the mandate of the Council of Europe. Of the previously announced information projects, the EU has managed only one: the renewal of the Schengen visa system, which took place in March 2023.