On Sunday the EU has updated its Schengen visa system to help mitigate illegal migration. The updated visa scheme means travelers now benefit from a simpler and more user-friendly visa application procedure:
- Apply earlier: Visa applications can be submitted up to 6 months before the intended travel (9 months for seafarers), instead of 3 months previously.
- Long-term validity: Frequent travelers with a positive visa history are to be granted multiple-entry visa with a gradually increasing validity period from 1 year to a maximum of 5 years. Only persons with a positive visa track record will be issued multiple-entry visas with a long validity.
- Apply electronically: In most cases, an application can be submitted directly in the country of residence, and where possible filled in and signed electronically (only hard copies were accepted until now).
- Increased fees: Visa fees have increased to €80 from the previous €60 fee that covers the costs of processing applications. The increase of the general visa fee has no impact on the lower visa fee (€35) set in the Visa Facilitation Agreements concluded between the EU and a number of third countries, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia.
The following rules remain the same:
- Applicants must lodge their application at the consulate of the country they intend to visit. Applicants planning to visit several Schengen states must apply at the consulate of the country where they will spend the longest period. Applicants planning on visiting several Schengen states for equal lengths of stay must apply at the consulate of the country whose external borders they will cross first when entering the Schengen area. In case the Schengen state of destination has no consulate in the country where the applicant resides, the applicant should check whether it is represented by another consulate.
- Visa applications can be submitted in the applicant’s country of residence (either at a consulate or at the premises of an external service provider) and, where possible, the application form can be filled in and signed electronically. Under the new rules, applicants have to appear in person only when fingerprints are to be collected (i.e. every 59 months).
The Schengen zone includes 26 countries, including nearly all EU states as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. There are no routine checks when crossing borders within the area, but travelers must produce a passport or other valid identification on request.
Read in detail here.