Visas For Members

LATEST: EU agrees to launch digital-only Schengen visa application process

Claudia Delpero, Europe Street
Claudia Delpero, Europe Street - [email protected]
LATEST: EU agrees to launch digital-only Schengen visa application process
Schengen visa process to go online. Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Non-EU nationals who need a Schengen visa to travel to European countries will soon be able to apply online, after EU council and the European Parliament announced an agreement on Tuesday.


The new system "provisionally" agreed by the Council of the EU and the European Parliament will introduce the possibility to apply for a visa online and will replace the current visa sticker in passports with a digital visa.

According to a press statement from the Council of the EU announcing the agreement "the goal of the proposal is twofold: to make the visa application procedure more efficient and to improve the security of the Schengen area."

It may still be a while before a new digital Schengen visa sees the light of day however with the agreement still needing to be approved by individual EU member states before the official adoption process in the Council and the European Parliament can begin.

"The digital visa will make the application process easier for travellers, simplifies the administrative procedure and increases the security of the Schengen area by for example reducing the risk of falsification and theft of the visa sticker," said Maria Malmer Stenergard, Swedish Minister for Migration.

Who needs a Schengen visa? 

The Schengen visa is required for people who do not benefit from the 90-day rule

Nationals of third countries such as South Africa, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka need the Schengen visa to visit Europe.

They are not needed for other non-EU nationals such as Brits, Americans, Canadians or Australians who benefit from the '90-day rule' - which allows certain groups to spend up to 90 days in every 180 in the EU or Schengen zone without needing a visa. You can see the full list of countries who need a Schengen visa here.


The Schengen visa allows a stay for tourism or family visits (but not work) in 26 European countries for up to 90 days in any 6-month period. People coming for a business trip or conference/meeting apply for a Schengen business visa.

Anyone who wants to stay longer, or to work while they are there, will need to get a visa from the country they intend to visit - either a working visa or visitor visa depending on the purpose of their stay.

Where does the Schengen visa apply?

Once agreed, the system will be used by the countries that are part of the border-free Schengen area.

These include EU countries, excluding Ireland (which opted out), Bulgaria, Romania, and Cyprus (which are not part of the Schengen area). Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, which are not EU members but have signed the Schengen Convention, will be part of the new system too.

How will the new system work?

Paper-based processes require applicants to travel to consulates to submit the application and collect their passports with the visa, a procedure that “proved problematic during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the European Commission said previously

Some EU countries have already started to switch to digital systems but not all accept online payments for the visa fees. 


Some details of the new scheme were released on Tuesday:

  • With a few exceptions, applications for Schengen visas will be made through a new single website, which will forward them to the relevant national visa systems.
  • On this platform, visa applicants will be able to introduce all relevant data, upload electronic copies of their travel- and supporting documents, and pay their visa fees.
  • Applicants will also be notified of the decisions concerning their visa.
  • In-person appearance at the consulate will in principle only be necessary for first-time applicants, persons whose biometric data are no longer valid and those with a new travel document.

Under the proposed new rules, visas will be issued in digital format, as a 2D barcode, cryptographically signed. This is intended to reduce security risks related to counterfeit and stolen visa stickers.

Explaining the move EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said previously: “Half of those coming to the EU with a Schengen visa consider the visa application burdensome, one-third have to travel long distance to ask for a visa. It is high time that the EU provides a quick, safe and web-based EU visa application platform for the citizens of the 102 third countries that require short term visa to travel to the EU."

Based on the discussion between the European Parliament and Council, the Commission could start developing the platform in 2024 and make it operational in 2026. EU countries will then have five years to phase out national portals and switch to the common online system. 


Any other visa changes?

The Schengen visa is different from the ETIAS (European Travel Information Authorisation), which is currently under development.

The ETIAS system will be used by non-EU nationals who are exempt from visas - for example Brits, Americans, Canadians and Australians who benefit from the 90-day rule - but who will need to apply for a travel authorisation prior to their trip.

The ETIAS visa waiver will cost €7 and will be free for people below the age of 18 and above 70. Once applied for, it will be valid for three years. 

The start date for this has been delayed several times - as has the EU's other proposed border change the Entry & Exit System (EES) - but is currently scheduled to some into effect in 2024. 

READ ALSO EES and ETIAS: The big changes planned for travel in the EU 



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