The lengthy Schengen visa process is expected to be fully online within the next few years.
The new digital system – proposed by the European Commission last week – will replace the arduous paper application process endured by millions of potential visitors to Europe.
Travelers can expect a “smoother and safer” system, the European Commission has promised.
“With some member states already going digital, it is now vital that the Schengen area moves forward as one,” said Margaritis Schinas, Commission Vice-President for Promoting Our European Way of Life. .
So how will the new system work – and when should you start planning a European getaway?
Who needs a Schengen visa?
The Schengen visa allows travelers to stay for tourist purposes or Business in 26 European countries for up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
The travel zone covers most EU countries, as well as Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. EU countries, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania are excluded.
Most foreign nationals must obtain the Visa to visit the travel area, including visitors to India, Chinaand South Africa.
The full list of countries that require a Schengen visa is available here. Americans, Britons and Australians are among those exempt from visa rules.
In 2019, over 15 million people used Schengen visas to travel across 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 when the physical visa sticker has been added.
According to the Commission, this process “proved problematic during the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Visa processing time varies from two weeks to 60 days.
The tedious bureaucratic process must evolve, said EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson.
“Half of those who come to the EU on a Schengen visa consider the visa application cumbersome, a third have to travel long distances to apply for a visa,” she said.
“It is high time that the EU provides a fast, secure and web-based EU visa application platform for citizens of the 102 third countries who need a short-term visa to visit in the EU.”
How will the digital Schengen system work?
In the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, the European Commission has set a goal of “full digitalisation” of visa procedures by 2025.
Visa applicants will be able to apply for – and pay for – a visa via 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. countries.
New applicants will still need to go to a consulate for the collection of biometric identifiers.
The proposal will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council, but will probably be accepted. It will be tabled in Parliament at some point in the coming months.
With hassle-free travel on the horizon, it might be time to start planning your dreamEuropean holiday.