European Union member states are backing a Commission proposal to modernize the union’s common visa policy dating back to 2010, and revise the visa code to facilitate travel and at the same time ensure internal security in view of increasing illegal migrations flows.
The agreement will now have to get European Parliament approval. The new rules will apply six months after official publication.
The strengthened regulations will make easier for travelers on tourism, trade and business to access the Schengen Area. Currently, 105 non-EU countries and entities require a visa to enter the Schengen Area. Indicatively, more than 14 million short-stay Schengen visas were issued in 2017.
“The new visa rules will facilitate travel for the millions of legitimate travelers who visit the EU every year to the benefit of our travel and tourism industry. At the same time, they will also improve and strengthen our security standards to detect those who pose a threat or have no right to enter the EU,” said Commissioner for Home Affairs, Migration and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos.
“The new rules will also enable us to use the leverage of our visa policy in cooperation with non-EU countries when it comes to the return and readmission of irregular migrants,” he added.
The revised regulations foresee more flexible procedures, multiple entry visas with longer validity, additional resources for strengthening security, and improving cooperation on readmission.
More specifically, travelers can – once the rules are in place – submit their applications (where applicable electronically) up to six months in advance of their scheduled trip, instead of the current three, and in most cases, directly from their country of residence. Minors aged 6-18 may be exempted from visa charges.
Frequent travelers with a positive visa record will be able to get a multiple-entry visa with an increasing period from one year to a maximum of five.
The visa fee will increase to 80 euros from the current 60 euros with the extra revenue to go towards staffing and security needs, and IT maintenance and upgrades.
Conditions for processing visa applications can be adapted depending on whether a third country cooperates satisfactorily on the return and readmission of irregular migrants.