EU embraces digitalization of visa applications


Visa applicants for Schengen area countries will be able to complete their procedures online on a single European platform, under new rules adopted on Monday by the Council of the European Union.

No date has yet been set for the application of these new rules. It will depend on the completion of the technical work for the implementation of this platform.

In most cases, Schengen visa applications (for stays of up to 90 days) can be made exclusively on the platform. Appointments at the visa center or consulate will only remain necessary for first visa applications, for people whose biometric data is no longer valid and for those who have a new passport.


The current sticker will be replaced by a digital visa, in the form of a barcode. “The possibility of applying for a Schengen visa online will be a great improvement,” said Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, whose country holds the six-monthly presidency of the Council of the EU.

“It will simplify the application process for travelers and, at the same time, lighten the burden on national administrations, who will be able to respond more quickly and more efficiently,” he stressed in a press release.

Switzerland concerned

Today, 27 European countries issue Schengen visas (as members of the Schengen Area): 23 of the 27 EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Citizens of around sixty countries, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, Australia and the United Kingdom, are exempt from visas for short stays in the Schengen area.

By mid-2025, travelers from these sixty countries will need to have an ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) travel authorization to enter the EU and the Schengen area. It will cost 7 euros and will be valid for three years. This system, similar to the American ESTA, aims to strengthen controls on foreign travelers within the EU, in order to detect potential threats.

Third-country nationals traveling in the EU will also be subject to a new entry and exit control system (EES) at the end of 2024. This centralized database will include the date and place of entry and exit, or refusal of entry, facial photographs and fingerprints of the traveler.

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