Travellers from developing countries who wish to visit the European Union's (EU) border-free Schengen area will soon be able to apply for their visa online, as two new regulations were adopted on Monday by the EU Council.
"The possibility of applying for a Schengen visa online will be a great improvement for citizens and for the processing of the applications," Fernando Grande-Marlaska Gomez, Spain's acting minister of interior, said.
"It will simplify the application process for travellers and at the same time will ease the burden on national administrations, which will be able to respond more quickly and effectively," he added.
The two new regulations will create an EU visa application platform, where all relevant documents could be uploaded and visa fees be paid.
However, in-person applications at consulates are still required for first-time applicants, people whose biometric data are no longer valid and people with new travel documents.
On the new platform, the current visa sticker will be replaced by a cryptographically signed barcode. This should reduce the security risks linked to counterfeit and stolen visa stickers.
In the context of the recent migration and security challenges, and the Covid-19 pandemic that considerably slowed down visa processing and created the need for more digital procedures, the European Commission submitted a legislative proposal in April 2022 aiming at digitalizing visa procedures.
The new regulations will enter into force 20 days after their publication in the Official Journal of the EU, according to the Council.
Once the technical work on the visa platform and the digital visa has been concluded, the date of application of the new rules will be decided, it added.