Simplifying the visa procedures for legitimate travelers and toughening measures to address irregular migration is at the center of a new proposal tabled Wednesday by the European Commission, ahead of a plan to update the Visa Information System (VIS) later this year.
Proposals to reform the current visa policy are aimed at addressing security concerns, challenges linked to migration while tapping into new technologies the will facilitate tourism — which accounts for approximately 10 percent of the EU’s GDP, trade and business.
“Every year, millions of travelers visit the EU and boost our travel and tourism industry. With the reforms we propose today it will become easier and faster for legitimate travelers to obtain a visa while security standards will be enhanced to better detect and stop those who are not,” said Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos of the proposed changes to the Visa Code.
“The new rules will also make sure our common visa policy can help improve our cooperation with non-EU countries when it comes to the return of irregular migrants,” he added.
The Commission’s recommendations include:
– cutting the decision-making time for visa applications down to 10 days from the current 15 with travelers given the chance to submit their applications up to six months in advance of their planned trip, instead of the current three months, and to complete their applications electronically.
– multiple entry visas will be issued to trusted regular travelers with a positive visa history for a gradually increasing period from one up to five years.
– EU member states will be able to issue single-entry visas directly at external land and sea borders under temporary, seasonal schemes subject to strict conditions – valid for up to seven days in the issuing country only.
– the visa fee will increase from 60 euros to 80 euros with fees collected going towards boosting consular staff worldwide.
The Commission is also proposing stricter conditions for processing visas when a partner country does not cooperate sufficiently on the readmission of irregular migrants, including travelers who entered regularly by obtaining a visa which they overstayed.
Indicatively, some 14 million Schengen visas were issued for short stay visits in 2016. There are currently 105 non-EU countries and entities that require a visa to travel to Schengen area with the short-stay visa entitling its holder to travel throughout the 26 Schengen States for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.