EU announces new online portal to simplify Schengen visa applications
The European Commission has announced its intention to develop a new online portal for processing Schengen visa applications, hopefully speeding up the process of applying for a visa to travel to the Schengen area - which includes Switzerland - for non-EU nationals.
Digital applications for Schengen visas soon possible
The plans, which were announced at the end of April, would see a new unified platform created on the internet to make the Schengen visa application fully digital, regardless of which country the applicant wishes to visit.
Currently, certain non-EU nationals have to go to a consulate to submit an application and then get a sticker in their passport, but the EU has long been committed to the project of adopting digital visas, on the basis that they are less vulnerable to forgery.
The new visa application platform would contain up-to-date information about visa requirements, and allow applicants to create an account, fill out an application form, upload their documents and pay for the visa. Applicants would be able to log back in to check the status of their application and receive updates. It would also be possible to extend the visa, if necessary, online.
However, first-time applicants, people with new travel documents, and previous applicants whose biometric data has expired would still be required to apply in-person at their local consulate to submit new biometric identifiers.
New online Schengen visa application should be quicker and easier
The new system still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and Council, but would provisionally go into effect in 2026, with a five-year transitional period. Once passed, online applications would be possible for Schengen visas for all countries in the border-free zone, which includes most EU countries as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland
Announcing the new process, Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, said: “Today we are bringing the EU's visa policy into the digital age. With some Member States already switching to digital, it is vital the Schengen area now moves forward as one.”
Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, added, “A modern visa process is crucial to make travel to the EU easier for tourism and business. Half of those coming to the EU with a Schengen visa consider the visa application burdensome, one-third have to travel long distances to ask for a visa. It is high time that the EU provides a quick, safe and web-based EU visa application platform for the citizens of the 102 third countries that require a short-term visa to travel to the EU.”
Note that the new Schengen visa system is different from the ETIAS (European Travel Information System), which is currently under development. The ETIAS will be used by non-EU travellers who are exempt from visas but need to apply for travel authorisation to come to the EU.