Today, 31 January 2023, members of the European Parliament adopted a report that proposes the digitalization of visa procedures in the Schengen area.
Although some of the Schengen visa procedures were digitized after the launch of the Visa Information System (VIS) and other databases, Schengen visas still contain physical stickers and require physical applications, which according to a press release published by the European Parliament, leads to increased costs and efforts.
Now, the plan is to process visa applications on a single online platform that would also let travelers know which country will receive their application if they apply for a multi-country trip.
“We want to deliver a modern, user-friendly digital solution for EU visa applications, along with simplified application procedures”, said Slovenian rapporteur Matjaž Nemec after the vote, which ended with 34 votes in favor, 5 against, and 20 abstaining. “Replacing the visa sticker with a digital visa would also reduce security risks posed by physical stickers, and a unified system would help people see the EU as a single geographical entity”.
To make the digital visa system more inclusive and easier to use for everyone, members of the European Parliament have requested amendments to the European Commission’s original proposal in order to add more language options and accessibility methods for people who live with disabilities or lack digital literacy.
They also want to adapt the system to accept multiple visa applications from the same IP address, something that can happen if applicants come from areas with poor internet connectivity. They have also clarified that it is not necessary to collect or process IP addresses in the visa application, anyway.
“In my report, I have sought to ensure the new system is even more applicant-friendly, by removing barriers stemming from language, disability status, lack of digital skills or poor internet connectivity, and to ensure that applicants’ data is more secure by introducing additional processing safeguards”, explained Matjaž Nemec.
The idea of the digitalization of visa application procedures was suggested in the latest revision of the EU’s Visa Code, which enabled the possibility to sign applications electronically —a previous step that paved the way for fully-digitalized visa application procedures.
Now that the proposal has been amended and adopted, interinstitutional negotiations will follow. These will be announced at the European Parliament plenary. If approved with no objections, negotiations on the final details of the legislation will start.