EU announces proposed changes to Schengen visa applications 

Last week, the European Commission proposed a new entirely digital system that would replace the current paper-based Schengen visa process, which can often be lengthy and confusing. 

At the moment millions of people wanting to visit Europe are faced with a paper application. However, this could be moved completely online in the next few years. 

The European Commission has promised that those wishing to travel will get a “smoother and more secure” system, with all member states using the same digital application. 

How will the online Schengen application work? 

In The New Pact on Migration and Asylum, the European Commission outlined its plans, which would mean “fully digitising” visa applications by 2025.

An online platform would be introduced so that all visa applicants could apply and pay for their visas using a single online EU platform. 

The platform would determine which Schengen country should be responsible for assessing the application. This would be done automatically, which would simplify the process, as the current paper process can be confusing for applicants in certain situations. 

It will also notify the applicant if they miss any information or documents, and the visa itself will be provided as a cryptographically signed 2D bar-code.

Who needs a Schengen visa?

A Schengen visa is required for most foreign nationals planning to visit the bloc for tourism or business for up to 90 days. The EU issues millions of visas every year.

It includes visitors from China, India, and South Africa, but doesn’t include Americans, Brits, and Australians. A full list of who needs a visa can be found here. 

The Schengen visa covers 26 EU countries, plus Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, and Romania are not covered by the visa. 

How long does it take to get a Schengen visa?

It takes at least 15 days to get a response to a Schengen visa application, and in some cases, it takes between 30 and 60 days to get visa approval. 

Visas are valid for 90 days, so anyone wanting to stay in Europe for longer needs to apply for an extension which means meeting additional requirements, including financial means. 

What are the requirements for a Schengen visa?

To obtain a Schengen visa, applicants need: 

  • A completed and signed application form 
  • Two recent photos 
  • A valid passport 
  • Information about their trip 
  • Proof of accommodation 
  • Proof of financial means 
  • Travel insurance policy
  • A paid visa application fee 

Some visas will require additional documents depending on the visa type, duration of the stay, and the country they are applying to, so it’s important to check first. 

How do you apply for a Schengen visa?

At the moment, visitors need to apply to the country they are staying in. If they are visiting multiple countries, they need to apply to the one they plan to spend the most time in. 

When the physical visa sticker has been added to their passport, they can travel. However, the visa processing time varies, and this can be problematic. 

According to European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson:  “Half of those coming to the EU with a Schengen visa consider the visa application burdensome, one third have to travel long distances to ask for a visa.”

“It is high time that the EU provides a quick, safe, and web-based EU visa application platform for the citizens of the 102 third countries that require a short-term visa to travel to the EU.”

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