European Union member states and European lawmakers agreed on Tuesday to change the current Schengen visa system, to make it largely digital, without the need for passport stickers.
The new law will, upon its official adoption and implementation, allow travelers requiring a visa to enter the European Union to apply online rather than visiting consulates or visa service offices.
MEP Matjaz Nemec, a leading proponent of the adoption of the digital visa system, said applicants would find the process “ easier, cheaper and faster ».
For her part, Maria Malmer Stenergard, Swedish Minister for Immigration, declared that this change ” strengthens the security of the Schengen area by reducing the risk of counterfeiting and theft of visa stickers, for example“.
The Schengen zone includes all the Member States of the European Union, that is 27 countries, with the exception of Cyprus, Ireland, Bulgaria and Romania.
The European Union allows visa-free entry for citizens of more than 60 countries outside the bloc. Currently, travelers requiring a visa must affix a Schengen sticker to their passport.
However, with the establishment of European Union databases to monitor the entry and exit movements of travellers, the validity of stays and border security checks, the European visa system is gradually evolving towards scanning.
Some countries, such as Australia, use a similar system where the visa is linked online to the traveller’s passport, without the need for a sticker. With these systems, applicants can upload the required documents and pay the fees.
However, the new European Union system requires first-time Schengen visa applicants, or those with new passports or changed biometrics, to appear in person at consulates or visa offices.