The European Council has just approved the digitalization of the Schengen visa application process. This means it will no longer be necessary to go to the embassy or consulate to obtain an EU tourist visa. Except for a few circumstances, everything is meant to be done and managed online.
This is important news as it will revolutionize travel and immigration procedures in the Schengen Zone. The digitalization of the Schengen visa aims not just to promote efficiency and accessibility, but also safety and security.
Let’s talk about what these changes mean, what the new process will look like, who exactly will be able to obtain her Schengen visa online, and when it will be implemented.
How will the Schengen Visa application process change?
Right now, the Schengen visa application process is a tedious and not quite agile process.
First, you make an appointment at the corresponding EU consulate in your country of origin; physically submit all requirements and necessary documents; wait for your application to be processed (which can take up to 45 days); pick-up or receive your passport with the tourist visa sticker inside; travel to Europe with this visa.
A long process that requires quite an effort from your side.
But this is about to change.
Through this digitalization, the European Commission will tansform this entire application process into an online one.
Additionally, instead of the traditional tourist visa sticker placed inside the passport, the traveler will receive a cryptographically signed barcode. This will increase security by making it difficult to fake identities and/or documentation.
As globalization continues to expand, more and more people are traveling for tourism, business, and research. Digitalizing the visa application process will make travel and bureaucracy processes easier and faster.
As demand increases, processing everything online should be a more economic path for both the applicant and authorities.
Will tangible Schengen visas still exist?
Although the overall goal is to transition completely to digital visas, authorities have stated that travelers can still apply for printed Schengen visas under certain circumstances.
For example, if it is virtually impossible for the individual to apply for and obtain the visa digitally, or for humanitarian reasons.
That without mentioning the groups of foreigners who will still be obliged to apply for their Schengen visa, something we will explore in the next sections.
Before we talk about the new process and what it entails in detail, here’s an infographic to give you a quick summary:
How will the online Schengen visa platform work?
First of all, authorities assure that the online platform will be inclusive in terms of languages, disabilities, or Internet connection. It will be created and managed by the eu-LISA agency, while the European Commision will keep the visa information updated and accurate.
The online platform will allow you to apply and pay for the Schengen visa from the comfort of your own home, no matter which country you are in.
Personal data and necessary documents can be uploaded onto the platform, and, through it, you’ll receive updates on your application. Of course, data protection is guaranteed.
The platform will automatically identify the country in charge of reviewing your application based on the purpose and duration of the trip. It will also tell you what the necessary requirements and procedures are.
The online application process step-by-step
If you are unsure whether or not you need a visa to travel to the Schengen Zone, you can first and foremost check on the platform. If you find that you do need a visa, you must create an account.
Once you have an account, you can then apply for the visa and upload the required documents. As we mentioned, the platform will automatically identify which member state is in charge of examining your application.
If you are granted the Schengen visa, you’ll have it on the platform as well.
Visa extension requests can also be made online.
Will this apply to all EU tourist visa applications?
Yes, this online application process will be applicable to all Schengen visa applications regardless of your country of origin. As a non-European citizen, it won’t be necessary to go to the embassy or consulate in person, unless you fall under any of the three situations:
- It is the first time you are applying for an EU tourist visa. In this case, you’ll need to go to have your biometric data taken
- Your biometric data is no longer valid, so you’ll have to go to renew them
- You are traveling with a new travel document that you need to present
What if you don’t need a tourist visa to travel to the Schengen Zone?
If you don’t need a tourist visa to travel to the Schengen Zone, of course you will not have to apply for one on this platform. However, if you are from a non-European country that does not need a visa to travel to Spain, you will still need to apply for an ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) travel authorization.
The ETIAS visa is meant to be fully digital, and, is also projected to be implemented around the same time as the digitalization of Schengen visas.
When will this digitalization be implemented?
The digitalization of the Schengen visa aims to be implemented in 2025, and will affect the 27 Schengen countries.
After receiving approval from the European Parliament, the proposal must now gain the endorsement of EU ministers in the Council.
Once the Council formally adopts this law, it can be published in the Official Journal of the EU and will become effective on the twentieth day after its publication.
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