Member States’ ambassadors have agreed on a negotiating mandate to digitize the visa process, the EU Council said in a statement, noting that the proposal “introduces the possibility of applying for a visa online and replaces the current visa sticker with a digital visa.
This initiative aims “to make the visa application process more efficient and to improve the security of the Schengen area,” the statement said, adding that the proposed new rules will create a unified platform dedicated to visa applications.
According to this proposal, all Schengen visa applications “will be submitted through this platform, a single website, which will transmit them to the national systems in this area,” notes the Council, adding that visa applicants will be able to introduce, on this platform, all relevant data, upload electronic copies of their travel documents and supporting documents and pay their visa fees.
Applicants, who will also be informed via this platform of their visa decisions, will only have to appear in person at the consulate if they are applying for a visa for the first time, if their biometric data is no longer valid or if they have acquired a new travel document.
“A digital Schengen visa will make it easier for legitimate travelers to apply for a visa and at the same time help make the Schengen area more secure,” said Swedish Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council.
Under the proposed new rules, visas will be issued in digital format, in the form of a cryptographically signed 2D barcode. According to Stenergard, this will “eliminate the risk of forgery and theft of the visa sticker.
The European Commission presented a legislative proposal to digitize the visa process last April.
On the basis of the negotiating mandate agreed by the EU Council, the Council Presidency will start negotiations with the European Parliament in order to reach an agreement on the final text.