In the next years, the lengthy Schengen visa application process will be entirely online.
The new digital system, suggested by the European Commission last week, will replace the time-consuming paper application procedure that millions of potential tourists to Europe have to face.
The European Commission has promised travelers a “smoother and more secure” system.
Margaritis Schinas, Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, stated, “With certain member states already converting to digital, it is critical that the Schengen area now moves forward as one.”
So, how will the new system function, and when should you start thinking about a European vacation?
Who is required to obtain a Schengen visa?
The Schengen visa allows visitors to stay in 26 European countries for up to 90 days in a 180-day period for tourism or business.
The travel zone includes the majority of EU countries, as well as Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, and Romania are not included.
Most foreign nationals, including visitors from India, China, and South Africa, require a visa to enter the travel area.
The complete list of countries requiring a Schengen visa can be found here. Americans, British, and Australians are among those who are exempt from the visa requirements.
Over 15 million people used Schengen visas to travel around Europe in 2019.
What is the procedure for applying for a Schengen visa?
At the moment, prospective tourists must apply at the consulate of the nation in which they want to spend the most time during their vacation.
They must then pick up their passports in person once the physical visa sticker has been applied.
This technique “proven troublesome during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the Commission.
The processing time for visas varies from two to sixty days.
Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, stated that the cumbersome bureaucratic process must modernize.
“Half of individuals entering the EU on a Schengen visa find the visa application onerous, and one-third must travel great distances to apply for a visa,” she said.
“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 short term visa to travel to the EU.”
What is the digital Schengen visa system?
The European Commission set a goal of “fully digitizing” visa procedures by 2025 in The New Pact on Migration and Asylum.
Visa applicants will be able to apply for a visa – and pay for it – through a single online EU platform.
The platform will determine which Schengen country is in charge of reviewing an application. Applicants who plan to visit multiple European countries may find the paper procedure confusing at the moment.
First-time applicants will still need to visit a consulate to obtain biometric identifiers.
The proposal will need to be approved by the European Parliament and Council, but it is expected to pass. It will be introduced in parliament in the coming months.
With easy travel on the horizon, it may be time to start planning your dream European vacation.