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European Union Council Approves Plans to Digitise Schengen Visa Application Process

Last updated on 31 March 2023

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The EU member states’ ambassadors today agreed the Council’s negotiating mandate for a proposal to digitalise the visa procedure. The proposal introduces the possibility to apply for a visa online and replaces the current visa sticker with a digital visa. It aims to make the visa application procedure more efficient and to improve the security of the Schengen area.

Maria Malmer Stenergard, Swedish Minister for Migration

A digital Schengen visa will make it easier for legitimate travellers to apply and will at the same time help make the Schengen area safer. Online applications will reduce the number of trips to the consulate for travellers and make the process smoother for national administrations. At the same time, the digital visa will put an end to the risk of falsification and theft of the visa sticker.

Maria Malmer Stenergard, Swedish Minister for Migration

The proposed new rules will create a visa application platform. All applications for Schengen visas will be made through this platform, a single website, which will forward them to the relevant national visa systems. On this platform, visa applicants will be able to introduce all relevant data, upload electronic copies of their travel- and supporting documents, and pay their visa fees. They will also be notified of the decisions concerning their visa. In-person appearance at the consulate will only be necessary for first-time applicants, persons whose biometric data are no longer valid and those with a new travel document.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.

Under the proposed new rules, visas will be issued in digital format, as a 2D barcode, cryptographically signed. This will reduce security risks related to counterfeit and stolen visa stickers.

Background and next steps

Recent migration and security challenges have significantly transformed the context of the EU’s visa policy. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic considerably slowed down visa operations and created the need for more digital procedures.

At the same time, technological developments provide new security features and opportunities to make procedures smoother and more effective, both for visa applicants and national authorities.

In this context, the Commission submitted on 27 April 2022 a legislative proposal aimed at digitalising the visa procedure.

On the basis of the negotiating mandate agreed today, the Council presidency will start negotiations with the European Parliament to agree on the final wording.

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