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16 Mar 2018

Adapting common EU visa policy in an attempt to boost tourism and reduce security risks

EU Commission proposes common visa policy reformsThe European Union Commission has proposed reforms regarding common visa policy for short stay visits for travelers from 105 non-EU countries or entities to which the visa requirement applies.

The proposed reforms come as a result of the evolving security concerns and challenges linked to migration and also of the new opportunities that the technological development offers. These reforms aim to create facilitations for travelers by making visa procedures faster and more flexible, extending the validity of multiple-entry visas and making possible the issuance of short-term visas at external borders. The reforms also suggest the increase of the visa fee and improvement of cooperation between the partner countries on irregular migration and return.

According to a press release issued by the European Commission on the adapting of the common EU visa policy to new challenges, the number of applications for EU visas has increased by 50 percent since 2009 to 2016, while the available financial resources of the Members States have remained the same or decreased. On the other hand, the visa application procedures have not changed since 2010 proving to be time-consuming, especially for frequent travelers, thus discouraging them and negatively affecting Europe’s economy.

Facilitation of visa application procedures

The facilitation of visa procedures by making them faster and more flexible is one of the reforms on the focus of the European commission proposal. The applicants will be allowed to submit their visa applications 6 months prior to their planned date of travel, while currently they are permitted to do so only three months in advance. The processing of the visa application would last less than ten days.

The new proposed visa policy also suggests the extension of multiple-entry visa validity for a longer period in comparison to their current validity. All applications will have to be submitted electronically, eliminating the necessity of traveler’s presence at the consulate. However, their presence to collect fingerprints remains a must.

The EU Commission plans to affect the growth of short-term tourism also through the issuance of single-entry visas at the external land or sea border on a temporary basis, under strict conditions. These visas will authorize the traveler to stay within the Member State that issued him / her the visa for 7 days at maximum, but does not permit him or her to enter the other Schengen Area member countries.

Increase of visa fee for more efficient visa processing

Among others, the increase of the visa fee from €60 to €80, is listed as the main way through which can be affected the static budget of the member states which has not changed since 2006. The increase of the budget would contribute to more efficient visa processing by the immigration authorities of each Member State by allowing each country to maintain an adequate number of consular staff and trained experts. It would also make possible to process more visa applications at one time than currently.

The proposed amount of €80 for one visa fee is still lower than those that travelers have to pay in order to be able to enter other countries, as:

  • United States of America charge applicants with a fee of €133
  • China charges applicants with a fee of €125
  • Australia charges applicants with a fee of €90
  • India charges applicants with a fee of €90
  • New Zealand charges applicants with a fee of  €100

Improving cooperation on irregular migration and return

The European Union has been challenged a lot during the past years by irregular migration and visa overstaying. A new visa policy would allow the Member States to take measures towards non-EU countries that do not successfully realize readmission of irregular migrants and visa overstayers. These measure in fact include only stricter visa application process, more requirements, higher visa fee, shorter visa validity, longer processing time etc.

These stricter provisions could apply firstly to certain categories of travelers only, such as diplomats, before being generalized to every citizen of the non-EU country concerned.

The proposed visa reform will apply to the member countries of the Schengen Zone, which include 22 European Union member states and the associated States – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Whereas, the rest of the European Union member states – Bulgaria, Croatia, Ireland, Cyprus, Romania and the UK – are excluded.

The European Commission expects that the new rules would attract more tourists to Europe thus boosting its economy, the number of irregular migrants and travelers who overstay visa would decrease, and will further strengthen the existing security checks.

In order for the proposed changes to come to life they must be agreed by both co-legislator, the European Parliament and the Council.

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