In a significant move towards the modernization of visa procedures, the European Commission has published updated regulations on Schengen visas and freedom of movement of third-country nationals within the border-free zone. These amendments pave the way for the implementation of the EU Visa Application Platform (EU VAP), a one-stop digital portal for submitting Schengen visa applications.
Transitioning to Online Applications
The transition from traditional in-person application procedures to online will be a gradual process, taking up to seven years. Member States will have the option to opt out of using the EU VAP during this transitional period, but those who wish to join must notify the Commission and eu-LISA, the agency responsible for operating the visa information system (VIS).
Digital Visa Format and Features
Once the EU VAP is fully operational, Schengen visas will be issued in digital format, featuring a 2D barcode cryptographically signed by the issuing Member State. The facial image of the visa holder will also be included, and the digital visa will be printable.
Streamlined Applications and Reduced Embassy Visits
The EU VAP is designed to streamline the application process and reduce the need for applicants to visit the embassy. Applicants will be able to submit their applications online, and the platform will automatically determine which Member State is responsible for processing the application.
In most cases, applicants will only need to visit the embassy for very specific reasons, such as when they are applying for a visa for the first time or when they have a new travel document.
Third-Party Representation and Electronic Payment
The EU VAP also allows for third-party representation, meaning that a duly authorized person can submit an application on behalf of the applicant. Additionally, visa fees will be collected through an EU VAP-linked gateway, ensuring secure and transparent payment processing.
Multilingualism and Electronic Notifications
To cater to a diverse pool of applicants, the EU VAP will support commonly spoken unofficial languages for translating application forms in specific cases. Applicants will also receive electronic notifications for updates on their applications and visa status.
Integration with Other EU Systems
The EU VAP is designed to be interoperable with other EU systems, such as the Entry Exit System (EES) and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). This will enable seamless data sharing and enhance border control effectiveness.
The introduction of the EU Visa Application Platform is a significant step towards modernizing visa procedures and improving the overall experience for applicants. The digital platform will streamline processes, reduce administrative burdens, and enhance security. As the EU VAP rolls out, we can expect to see a more efficient and user-friendly approach to Schengen visa applications.