To avoid unnecessary delays, residents of non-Schengen countries who plan to visit Europe must apply for Schengen visas four to six months in advance, even as the EU gradually shifts towards digitalizing and processing Schengen visa applications online. However, this process is not expected to be completed for another two years.
Over the past year and beyond, travelers from countries outside of the Schengen zone have consistently faced challenges with obtaining visa appointments for European consulates in their countries, resulting in delays.
The ability to obtain a Schengen visa within a few weeks of travel will likely incentivize more people to take a holiday in Europe, according to industry experts. In addition, most budget-friendly airlines are expanding their services to European cities, ensuring convenient connectivity. Travelers will have a range of budget options, including those provided by ultra-low-cost carriers like Wizz Air.
Although the proposal to the EU Council for implementing e-visas does not specify any cost changes, industry insiders suggest that the application fees may be subject to modification. The draft proposal states that visa fees must be paid through a third-party gateway connected to the online application platform, with payments directly transferred to the relevant EU member-state being visited.
The proposed EU digital visa will be issued as a 2D barcode in a cryptographically-signed digital format, aimed at mitigating security risks associated with counterfeiting and theft of visa stickers. Swedish Minister for Migration, Maria Malmer Stenergard, believes that online applications will streamline the visa process for both travelers and national administrations. The introduction of the digital visa will eliminate the risk of visa sticker falsification and theft.
Under the proposed EU digital visa system, visa applicants will be able to apply online through a single platform, regardless of their destination member-state. The platform will allow applicants to submit personal data, scanned copies of travel documents, supporting documents, and travel medical insurance.
Physical appearances at the consulate or the use of external service providers like VFS Global will only be necessary for first-time applicants, those with newly acquired travel documents that need verification, or for collecting biometric identifiers. Repeat applicants who use the same travel document can apply online within five years of a successful application.