The European Council adopted a new set of rules to digitalise the Schengen area’s visa procedure on Monday. Photo: Shutterstock

The European Council adopted a new set of rules to digitalise the Schengen area’s visa procedure on Monday. Photo: Shutterstock

In an effort to streamline travel to the EU, the European Council has adopted a digital approach to Schengen visa applications, enhancing the application process and security measures.

The European Council approved new regulations to digitalise the visa application process for the Schengen area, which includes 27 European countries.

Aimed at modernising the EU’s visa system, these new rules will streamline the process through online applications and enhanced security measures, the council on Monday 13 November 2023

Central to this initiative is the establishment of an EU-wide visa application platform. This digital platform is designed to handle the majority of Schengen visa applications, providing a streamlined process for applicants to submit necessary data, upload electronic copies of travel and supporting documents, and pay visa fees online.

A noteworthy shift from the existing system, this digital approach replaces physical visa stickers with cryptographically signed 2D barcodes, significantly reducing the risks associated with counterfeit and stolen visas.

The new regulations also aim to reduce the need for in-person appearances at consulates. Under the updated rules, only first-time applicants, individuals with invalid biometric data, and those with new travel documents will generally be required to appear in person.

Additionally, the platform will automatically assign the member state responsible for processing each visa application, based on the duration of the intended stay in various Schengen countries. However, applicants have the option to specify a particular member state for processing, depending on their travel purposes.

The regulations will be published in the official journal of the European Union and are set to come into force on the twentieth day following their publication. The application date of the new rules will be determined upon the completion of the technical work on both the visa platform and the digital visa system.