The Council of the European Union (EU) has given the green light to digitize the Schengen visa application process.
This marks a transformative shift for individuals requiring visas to enter the Schengen Area, introducing an online application option that eliminates the need for physical visits to consulates and streamlines response times, as reported by VisaGuideWorld.
The Spanish Minister for the Interior Fernando Grande-Marlaska Gómez underscored the profound impact of this decision. He deemed the online Schengen visa application process a game-changer.
He emphasized its positive implications for both citizens and administrations while anticipating acceleration in the overall visa processing procedure.
The impending introduction of online Schengen visa applications is poised to bring about a simplification of the application process for travellers and a reduction of the administrative burden on national authorities.
A pivotal development highlighted by the Council is the creation of a unified visa application platform designed to centralize and streamline the processing of Schengen visa applications. While there will be some exceptions, this platform promises to be a user-friendly interface.
It will allow applicants to input relevant information, upload electronic copies of travel documents, and conveniently make visa fee payments.
Furthermore, the platform will serve as a communication hub for applicants to receive notifications regarding the status of their visa decisions.
One notable feature of the new system is its ability to automatically assign the processing country for applicants planning to visit multiple Schengen countries.
However, applicants will still have the option to express a preference for a specific country to handle their application.
Under the updated regulations, physical visits to consulates are expected to become largely unnecessary, except for specific cases such as first-time applicants, individuals with expired biometric data, and those with a new travel document.
The Council's announced regulations also include a technological upgrade with replacement of the current visa sticker with a more secure cryptographically signed barcode.
While the European Union has not provided a specific launch date for the online Schengen visa application system, authorities have indicated that the new rules will come into effect once the development of the visa platform and digital visa is completed.