Schengen Goes Digital: EU Introduces Online Visas
The European Union is ushering in a new era for Schengen visas, making the process fully digital. This move eliminates the need for physical stickers in passports, streamlining the application process, as reported by AFP.
Expected to take effect three weeks after its publication in the EU's official administrative gazette, this change comes after months of legislative procedures. The Schengen Area comprises 23 EU member states and neighboring countries Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.
Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, representing the current EU presidency, stated, "The online visa system will simplify the visa application process for travelers." Under the new system, individuals applying for short-term stays in the Schengen Area will submit documents, data, and electronic copies of travel documents, including biometric information, through an online platform. If approved after a database check, applicants will receive a cryptographically signed barcode to print or store on a device.
While this digital leap forward is a significant advancement, some first-time applicants or those with new passports or changed biometrics may still be required to attend in-person meetings.
Countries like Australia have already implemented similar systems, linking online visas directly to individuals' passports without the need for physical stickers. Citizens from over 60 countries, including Australia, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States, generally do not require short-stay Schengen visas.