Schengen area visa reforms approved

schengen area visa reforms
© iStock/Aslan Alphan

The European Parliament has agreed to reform rules governing the application and issuing processes for visas within the Schengen area.

Under the new EU Visa Code, which had already received the informal approval of the Council of Ministers, the application process for bona fide travellers using short stay visas – staying up to 90 days in another Schengen area Member State during any 180-day period – are to become simpler; and visas will be actively linked to migration policy. The new rules require applications for short term visas to be submitted between six months in advance of the trip, rather than the current three, and 15 days; though seafarers will be allowed to submit visa applications up to nine months before they leave.

Other changes made in the new Visa Code include:

  • The fee for visa applications will increase from €60 to €80, with exemptions for students, researchers and children under the age of six and potential reductions for applicants under 18;
  • The European Commission is to reassess the newly-introduced prerequisite for travellers to purchase travel health insurance after 15 months, taking actual medical costs into consideration;
  • Member States must coordinate with external service providers managing visa applications in non-EU countries where they do not maintain a presence; and
  • Frequent travellers may be eligible to apply for multiple entry visas.

Rapporteur Juan Fernando López Aguilar said: “After years of negotiating, we managed to reach an ambitious deal to update and simplify EU visa procedures. Our aim is to make legitimate travel for tourism, business and trade easier, whilst reinforcing internal security and establishing mechanisms to prevent abuses. We also managed to introduce positive incentives for countries cooperating in returns, and not only sanctions for those not cooperating.”

The European Commission welcomed Parliament’s decision, with Commissioner for Home Affairs, Migration and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos saying: “The new rules will facilitate tourism, trade and business while enhancing our security standards to detect those who pose a threat or have no right to enter the EU. They will also help improve cooperation with non-EU countries on the return and readmission of irregular migrants.”

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