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20 Feb 2019

EU Members Back Agreement to Strengthen EU Visa Rules

EU Members Back Agreement to Strengthen EU Visa RulesThe EU Member States have backed today an agreement between the European Parliament and the EU Council on a proposal to strengthen the EU visa policy. The proposal has been drafted by the Commission in a bid to modernize the EU visa code, to facilitate traveling to the Schengen Area for tourism, trade and business, and at the same time to contribute to the internal security.

The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Migration and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos welcomed the agreement. He said that the new visa rules would facilitate travel for the millions of travelers to the EU every year.

“At the same time, they will also improve and strengthen our security standards to detect those who pose a threat or have no right to enter the EU. The new rules will also enable us to use the leverage of our visa policy in cooperation with non-EU countries when it comes to the return and readmission of irregular migrants,” Commissioner Avramopoulos said.

The new rules include procedures that are more flexible for travelers to the Schengen Area. While according to the current rules the earliest one can file an application is three months prior to their trip, the new rules intend to extend this period to six months.

A moderate increase of the Schengen visa fee from €60 to €80 is also suggested, in order to secure additional resources for the strengthening of security.

“This modest increase will allow Member States to maintain adequate levels of consular staff worldwide to ensure stronger security screenings, as well as the upgrading of IT equipment and software, without representing an obstacle for the visa applicants,” a press release by the EU Commission reads.

Another press release by the EU Council explains that the new regulation will also contribute to the improvement of cooperation with third countries on readmission of irregular migrants. This will be done through a new mechanism, which is to be introduced in the future.

“Under this mechanism, the Commission will regularly assess third countries’ cooperation on readmission. Where a country is not cooperating, the Commission will propose that the Council adopt an implementing decision applying specific restrictive visa measures related to visa processing and, eventually, visa fee,” the EU council says through this press release.

The EU Visa Code, which is a set of rules on the processing and issuance of short-stay visas to the EU, dates back to 2010. The agreement on the amendment of the Visa Code will now have to be endorsed by the European Parliament, which together with the council needs to formally adapt the regulation. The adopted text will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and the new rules will come into force half a year later.

As per February 2019, citizens of 102 countries and two other entities are in need of a visa to visit the EU. Kosovo and Turkey are among the countries in the process of reaching a visa liberalization agreement with the EU.

Statistics show that in 2017, Schengen visa embassies and consulates processed 16,155,613 Schengen visa applications.

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