European Council gives green
light to online Schengen
visa plan

On 13 November 2023, the European Council adopted new rules allowing people who plan to travel to the Schengen area to apply online for a visa.

An online system for Schengen visa applications has been in discussion for some time, and the European Commission previously set an objective to fully digitalise the Schengen visa process by 2025. The goal of the new online system is twofold: to make the visa application procedure more efficient and to improve the security of the Schengen area.

Fernando Grande-Marlaska Gómez, acting Spanish minister for the interior said: “The possibility of applying for a Schengen visa online will be a great improvement for citizens and for the processing of the application. It will simplify the application process for travelers and, at the same time, will ease the burden on national administrations, which will be able to respond more quickly and effectively.”

The Schengen area is the largest free travel zone in the world, consisting of 27 European countries which have abolished many types of internal border controls.  A Schengen visa is a short-stay visa which allows its holder to enter, freely travel within and leave the Schengen zone from any of the Schengen member countries. Obtaining a Schengen visa is the best way for visa-required nationals to travel across multiple countries on a single permit.

New EU visa application platform

The two regulations adopted will create an online EU visa application platform. With a few exceptions, applications for Schengen visas will be made through that platform. On the platform, visa applicants will be able to enter all the relevant data, upload electronic copies of their travel documents and supporting documents, and pay their visa fees.

Currently, applications for Schengen visas must be made at an Embassy, Consulate, or a visa centre. The application must be lodged at the Consulate that represents the country the applicant intends to visit, or the country where they will spend the most days if visiting multiple countries during their trip.

The new platform is intended to render in-person appearance at the Consulate redundant. In-person appearance will only be necessary for first-time applicants, people whose biometric data are no longer valid and people with a new travel document.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.

The current visa sticker will be replaced with a cryptographically signed barcode.

Next steps

The two regulations will enter into force 20 days after they are published in the Official Journal of the European Union. The date of application of the new rules will be decided when technical work on the visa platform and the digital visa has been concluded.

Smith Stone Walters will continue to monitor the progress of the new system adoption and will provide updates when further information is available. To keep up to date with the latest UK, EU and global immigration developments, please sign up to our free news service.

If you require support with a Schengen visa application, please contact us today.

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