The European Commission adopted on 04th December 2020 through the New Pact on Migration and Asylum an initiative for the digitalisation of the visa procedures in the Member states.
The Inception Impact Assessment published on this topic aims to find a common solution so that the applicants can lodge their Schengen visa applications online, without having to travel every time to the consulates, submit the paperwork and pay the visa fee at the counter, leave their passports in original and collect them back and the end of the process.
Also, a digitalized procedure could save time, diminish the risk for frauds and reduce the costs for all the parts involved in the process (travelers, consulates, external service providers etc.).
The objective of the Commission is to have the visa procedure digitalized by 2025, some of the possible options taken into consideration being:
- issuing a EU law to establish the minimum requirements for online visa application procedures, to be implemented by the Member States who choose to adopt this;
- creating an EU online application portal, optional or mandatory for Member States, who can still choose to use their own online tools
For both options, the visa will be issued electronically and the applicants will only need to present themselves at the consulates every 5 years in order to provide their facial image and fingerprints and to present their passport; additionally, in case of a smartphone application will be also implemented, the identification can be also done online and appearance in person at the consulates would be necessary only in very special cases.
Regarding the scope of the digitalization process, it is still to be decided if it will implemented only for transit and short-stay visas (type A and C) in purpose of tourism, trade etc., or also for long-stay visas (type D) approved for studies, employment or other activities.
During 2021, the Commission plans to consult with the main stakeholders in the process: travelers, Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Member States, border control authorities, but also with representatives in the travel and tourism industries. Also, the Commission aims to assess the possible impact on social, environmental and fundamental rights levels until summer 2021.
With this initiative, the EU will join the global plan for the digitalization of visa procedures already adopted by countries like Australia, Russia and India, with the main benefits of reducing the costs of money, time and other resources for all the parts involved and in the same time increasing the security of the Schengen area.
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