The revised Schengen Visa Code includes an increase in application fee, lengthier visa validity, extended application period, sanction for countries that refuse to readmit their citizens, among others.
As from 2 February, new rules governing the issuance of Schengen Visa will go into force. The visa allows its holders to travel to 26 European countries, 22 of which are member states of the EU.
The main changes to the Schengen Visa Code are:
- Higher visa fees: Increase in the visa fee from €60 to €80. While children and other categories persons that are granted the benefit of paying lower fees will now pay €40 instead of €35. Children aged 0 to 6 remain exempted from the visa fees.
- Extended application submission periods prior to travel: Application can be lodged six months in advance of a trip. It was formerly three months. The latest an application can be submitted, however, remains 15 calendar days before an intended trip to the Schengen Area.
- Electronic application process: Application forms can now be signed and submitted electronically.
- Lengthier multiple-entry Visa validity: Frequent visitors to the Schengen Area who have a positive visa history – meaning they have lawfully used their previous visas, have a good economic situation in their country of origin and a genuine intention to leave the territory of the Member States before the expiry of the visa for which they have applied – will be granted the benefit of a multiple-entry visa valid for up to five years.
- Visa processing as readmission leverage: The new visa code employs visa processing to pressure third-countries (non-EU countries) to collaborate in the readmission of their citizens classified as irregular immigrants in Europe. Thus, the European Commission will assess regularly, at least once a year, third-countries’ cooperation on readmission to determine whether a third-country is cooperating sufficiently. In cases when the Commission considers that a third-country is not cooperating sufficiently on readmission the nationals of that country may face longer visa processing periods and higher visa fees. Countries collaborating in this regard will be rewarded with shorter visa processing periods, lower visa fees and visas with lengthier validity.
- Travel Insurance: Travel Insurance remains mandatory for Schengen Visa applicants
- Schengen Member Countries’ representation: The new code obliges all Schengen member states to be present in every third-country (non-EU country) through their embassy/consulate, another Member States of the EU, or by outsourcing Schengen visa processing to an external service provider so that the nationals of some countries will no longer have to travel to a neighbouring country just to lodge and application.
The revision of the schengen visa code is mainly “to strengthen the common visa policy while taking into account migration and security concerns, through increasing the role of visa policy in the EU’s cooperation with third-countries”, the EU says.
Currently, travellers from 104 countries and entities need to obtain a visa to enter the EU for stays of up to three-months within the Schengen Zone. (The African Courier)