On 1 April, the European Commission presented a package of proposals aimed to shorten and simplify the procedures for those wanting to vacation in the EU for short stays, and induce more cost savings and less bureaucracy, whilst maintaining the level of security.
More specifically, the proposals include reducing the deadline from 15 to 10 days for processing and taking a decision, providing a simplified application form and allowing for online visa applications.
Aiming to attract repeat visits to Europe, the Commission wants to establish substantial facilitations for regular travelers that will include mandatory issuing of multiple entry visas valid for three years and subsequently for five years for “VIS registered regular” travelers. (Applicants whose data are registered in the Visa Information System (VIS) and who have previously lawfully used at least two visas within the past 12 month period will benefit from these facilitations.)
The Commission also aims to establish a new type of visa (Touring-visa) allowing legitimate travelers to circulate in the Schengen area for up to 1 year (without staying in one Member State for more than 90 days in any 180-day period).
According to a recent study, in 2012 a total number of 6.6 million potential travelers from six countries (China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Ukraine) with the most travelers were “lost” due to cumbersome visa procedures.
The study also showed that more flexible and accessible visa rules could lead to an increase in trips to the Schengen area of between 30 percent and up to 60 percent, only from those six countries.
“This could mean as much as 130 billion euros in total direct spending over five years (in accommodation, food and drink, transports, entertainment, shopping, etc.), and could translate into some 1.3 million jobs in tourism and related sectors,” the European Commission said in a statement.
The proposals must now be approved by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament, which can be expected at the earliest in 2015.
Commenting on the proposals for more flexible visa rules, the European Commission Vice President responsible for industry and entrepreneurship, Antonio Tajani, said that the changes would help the tourism industry deal with the expected considerable increase of the flows of tourists visiting Europe.
“Tourism is Europe´s growth engine and has been the most important stronghold of European economy during the recent crisis,” Mr. Tajani said.
Greek tourism professionals applaud proposals
According to SETE, Greece loses 3.5 million visitors every year due to the current visa system.
In an announcement, the association said that until the proposals are implemented in 2015, the Prime Minister’s directive (announced in January 2014) must be implemented.
The directive SETE is referring to involves a multiple-entry visa system, according to which interested parties will be issued a single-use visa (in 48 hours) if it is their first visit to Greece; a one-year multiple visa for their second visit; and a three-year multiple visa for their third visit to the country.