EU proposes reforms to Schengen area visa information system

EU proposes reforms to Schengen area visa information system
European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos © Arno Mikkor

The European Commission has proposed reforms to the Schengen area visa information system, to better respond to security and migratory challenges.

The Schengen area visa information system is a database containing information on those applying from outside the EU’s external borders for visas to travel within Europe. It connects guards at Europe’s external borders with member states’ consulates, and provides key information for visa-issuing authorities.

The reforms that the commission has proposed will enable more thorough background checks on applications, facilitate information exchange between member states and ensure operability with other EU databases. This has become increasingly necessary over time in light of changing flows of migration, and as terrorist actors travel between states in the Schengen area.

What reforms have been suggested?

Proposals include enhanced security checks, which will ensure all visa applications will be automatically checked against all other EU databases and information systems for security and migration, including the European Criminal Records Information System.

The Schengen area visa information system will now include copies of the applicant’s travel document, and be accessible by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, to facilitate the identification and readmission of undocumented irregular migrants to increase the efficiency of Europe’s return policy.

What has the commission said?

The European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said that the update to the Schengen area visa information system will significantly improve European border security.

He said: “With the upgrade of the visa information system, we will remove blind spots in our information systems and give visa authorities and border guards the information they need to do their job properly. Criminals and potential terrorists should not be able to come to Europe unnoticed. Europe is not a fortress – but we need to know who is crossing our borders. It is our responsibility to ensure the safety of European citizens and build a Europe that protects while not hampering mobility for those travelling to the EU in good faith.”

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