EU Seeks To Relax Schengen Area Visa Rules

By Editorial 04 April, 2014

The European Commission (EC) has proposed visa reforms to make it easier for non-European Union nationals to enter the Schengen area, including a multiple entry visa valid from three to five years for regular travelers, increased cooperation between consulates, the abolition of compulsory travel insurance, and simpler and quicker visa processing.

Under the proposals, the visa application form will be made simpler, and it will be possible to make online applications. Also, in cases where a Member State is competent to issue a visa but does not have a consular presence in a third country, applicants in that country will be able to apply via the consulate of an alternative member state. Applicants will be able to apply six months before making a trip, rather than within three months, and processing times will be slashed from 15 days to 10 days.

The EC also suggests a scheme for granting a 15-day visa for one Schengen state available at the border, special provisions to facilitate visas for major events such as the Milan World Expo, and a new one-year Touring Visa for travelers who plan not to spend more than 90 days in any one state in any 180-day period.

The multiple entry visa will be available to travellers who are registered on a new Visa Information System, which is expected to be in place from next year. Applicants who have previously used at least two visas within the previous 12-month period will be eligible for a multiple entry visa valid for three years, and subsequently for five years.

Cecilia Malmström, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, said that Europe "needs a smarter visa policy," and said that the proposal would boost the economy while maintaining border security. Last August, an EC study found that 6.6m potential travelers to the Schengen area from China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Ukraine had canceled their plans due to cumbersome visa rules, and that reform could mean up to EUR130bn (USD179bn) in extra spending, and 1.3 million extra jobs.

The proposals will be considered by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament by 2015 at the earliest. The changes will not apply to Bulgaria, Croatia, Ireland, Cyprus, Romania, and the UK, which fall outside the Schengen area and which are not Schengen-associated states.

Tags: European Commission | Insurance | European Union (EU) | Expats | Travel | Visas And Passports | Europe |


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