The visa platform should be operational in 2026
The European Union has moved one step closer to digitalizing the procedures for applying for a Schengen visa after the EU Council approved a new procedure for applying for a Schengen visa and other changes in November.
The European Union intends to start implementing a completely new system for obtaining a Schengen visa by 2026, which will make the Schengen registration procedure easier, cheaper, and less time-consuming.
According to the EU regulation on the digitalization of the visa procedure, in 2026 both the EU visa application platform and the digital visa itself will appear. The transition period will take about two years, and after its completion (the end of 2028), all applications for Schengen will be submitted online through the EU visa platform, with the exception of a few exceptional cases for which a paper procedure will remain possible.
According to Brussels’ plans, taking into account the demand for Schengen visas before the COVID-19 pandemic and the gradual restoration of the inbound tourist flow to EU countries, in 2028, when the digital visa platform begins to function, from 18 to 20 million applications for Schengen worldwide will be processed through this system.
However, eurosceptics believe that forecasts about the full launch and even more so the functioning of the visa platform in 2028 are somewhat premature. At least because there is still no exact timeline for the implementation of the two EU border systems, which are aimed at tightening border controls at the external borders of the European Union.
We are talking about two large-scale projects. The first is the Entry/Exit System (EES), an automated IT system that involves registering data on the entry and exit of third–country nationals, both holders of short-term visas and visa-free travelers, every time they cross the external border of the EU.
The second is the ETIAS system (European Travel Information and Authorization System). It will perform functions similar to EES in relation to citizens of more than 60 countries who need to enter the Schengen area/The EU does not require a visa.
The launch of EES and ETIAS has been postponed several times, including due to technical problems. Therefore, experts believe that travelers will be able to fully use the EU digital visa platform no earlier than 2030.
All procedures related to obtaining Schengen will be available on one platform.
Regardless of the country or number of countries a traveler wishes to travel to, whether for tourism, visiting family members or business, all applicants will have to apply for a Schengen visa through a single platform.
The platform, which has not yet been developed and its domain remains unknown, will then determine which Schengen country is responsible for processing the application, and then transfer it to the appropriate authorities.
Although very little is known about what information the platform will request from travelers, each applicant for a Schengen visa will have to provide the following information:
First name, last name, place and date of birth
Dates of previous trips to the Schengen area
Information about previously obtained visas and trips around the world
Travelers will also have to answer questions about which country they want to visit, how they plan to finance their future trip, accommodation, flights, etc. It is also not clear exactly how travelers will be asked to provide evidence for each of these points.
One of the main changes that visa applicants will face in the future when obtaining a Schengen visa will be the number of required documents. Although confirmations on some aspects of the application will still be required, applicants will no longer have to submit them physically: instead, their electronic form will suffice.
Applicants for Schengen will have to upload the necessary documents to the online visa platform on their own, among which will be:
Digital biometric photos
Confirmation of the route, for example, airline tickets.
Confirmation of residence
Many of the criteria for applying for a Schengen visa will remain the same, or at least similar, with the only change: they will no longer have to be printed.
Visa fees will also be paid online via a digital platform.
However, there is one big exception. The procedures described above will only apply to those who have previously applied for and received a Schengen visa.
But those who apply for the first time will have to go for Schengen the old-fashioned way and apply in person at the visa application center or consulate. This requirement will also apply to applicants whose biometric data is no longer valid, as well as those with a new travel document. For example, a foreign passport.
What those who travel to Europe in the future will not have in their passports is a paper visa. It will be replaced by a 2D barcode with a cryptographic signature. This, as the EU is confident, will reduce the likelihood of visa forgery and other visa fraud options.