The European Commission Proposal on Amendments to EU Visa Policy – A Commentary

In 2013 the EC conducted a wide public consultation with civil society on EU visa policy, based on the Visa Code (in force since 2010) and visa facilitation agreements, signed by the EU and selected third countries. EU visa policy is more restrictive than American and Canadian.

The outcome of these consultations are proposals made by the EC on the 1st April 2014: 1. reducing the deadline for processing of visa application from 15 to 10 days, 2. introducing right to apply for visa in the consulate of other EU Member State, if the destination country in neither present nor represented (“obligatory representation”), 3. introducing obligatory issuance of long-term multiple entry visas to bona fide travelers, 4. simplifying of application procedure, including possibility to lodge application online, 5. introducing possibility to issue a 15 day visa on the state border, 6. possibility to introduce special, simplified procedure for issuance of visas to participants of major events (sport, cultural, etc.), 7. introducing of a “touring visa” allowing to circulate in the Schengen zone for up to 1 year.

The EC underlines positive impact of proposed amendments to visa policy on European economy, especially tourist industry. The economic argument is justified and will likely be supported by decision makers, especially members of the Council of the European Union, whom it is easier to convince with economic benefits (up to €130 billion) and rise of employment (by 1,3 million jobs) than speaking about European values: openness, increasing people-to-people contacts, We should not forget these values, though. Proposed amendments when adopted, will indeed influence on the image of the EU in the neighboring states and relations with them in a positive way.

Possibility to lodge the visa application online might solve the problem of long queues to consulates, one of major drawbacks of current visa system, making applying for visa in a reasonable time hardly possible. According to the EC’s estimation, almost 7 million people cancelled their trips to the Union in 2012, discouraged by obligation to obtain a visa, facing long queues and unfriendly procedures.

The Commission proposed in addition shortening the list of supporting documents to be presented by visa applicants, making if an exhaustive one. Currently, some of required documents are hard to obtain and senseless to present.

Bona fide travelers, often visiting the EU are to be obligatory granted a 3-year multiple entry visa and the 5-year one will follow. This fulfils a postulate of the civil society, raised for years.

Amendments proposed by the Commission should be considered as an important step towards making the EU visa policy more friendly and – in future – abolishment of visa regime with further third countries. They are expected to enter into force in 2015, if supported by the European Parliament and the Council, coinciding with roll out of the Visa Information System (VIS), aimed at reducing migratory risks for Schengen zone and allowing to transfer some of traveler assessment competences from consulates to border checkpoints (BCPs).

Krzysztof Mrozek

The Friendly EU Border Project

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