EU Moves Towards Schengen Visa Digitalisation

8 August 2023

On 11th June, a groundbreaking agreement was reached between the EU Council and European Parliament, paving the way for a radical transformation of the Schengen visa application process. Bid farewell to the cumbersome paperwork and get ready to welcome a streamlined and efficient centralised online system.

This pivotal agreement aligns seamlessly with the Schengen Strategy unveiled in June 2021. Recognising the importance of managing the external borders of the European Union, digitising visa procedures emerged as a top priority. Building upon this vision, the EU Commission put forth the New Pact on Migration and Asylum in September 2020, championing the full digitisation of visa applications and the introduction of digital visas.

In this article, we will explain all that you need to know about these planned changes, the expected timeline for implementation, and how AE Business Advisors can help you to navigate the transition.

Paving the Way for a Digital Transformation

The existing Schengen visa application process has drawn sharp criticism from applicants for its excessive paperwork and lack of uniformity across member states. With only a handful of states employing a partial digital approach, the burden of paperwork remains both costly and cumbersome for all involved. The complexity further intensifies for those intending to explore multiple Schengen countries, forcing them to grapple with the daunting task of selecting the right member state for their application. Additionally, the risk of fraud, theft, and falsification of physical visa stickers looms large, demanding urgent attention.

To address these pressing issues, the European Union is taking decisive action. Embracing the digital age, the new rules will revolutionise the application process, replacing physical stickers with a secure and centralised system empowered by digital barcodes. By simplifying the process and enhancing security, the EU aims to create a smoother and more efficient visa experience for all stakeholders.

How the New System Will Work

When the digitised system comes into place, all Schengen visa applications will be made through the same website, which will be managed by the IT agency eu-LISA.

Applicants will be well served with the convenience of a secure online account, serving as their hub for the entire application journey—from submission to the final decision. The digital platform allows swift electronic payments for visas and timely notifications regarding any additional documents required, ensuring both applicants and processing authorities save valuable time.

In addition to being an application hub, the platform will provide vital visa-related information and procedures, augmented by a helpful chatbot feature to answer any queries applicants may have.

Approved applicants shall receive a cutting-edge cryptographic digital barcode, replacing the traditional physical visa sticker. Bolstered by superior security measures, these digital barcodes will safeguard against vulnerabilities and ensure a robust defence against potential security risks.

These groundbreaking rules extend across all Schengen visa types, including essential tourist visas, paving the way for a hassle-free journey into the bloc for visitors from designated countries. The future of Schengen visa applications is digital, efficient, and tailored to elevate the experience for all.

The Timeline for the Transition

Following a legal review, the proposal is expected to be approved in September 2023.

Voluntary use of the new system is predicted to be in place in 2025, and mandatory use is anticipated by the latest 2032.

How AE Business Advisors Can Help

At AE Business Advisors we endeavour to stay ahead of the curve so we can guide you and your business through the challenges, opportunities, and changes that it faces.

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Nicolette Spiteri Bailey