Schengen visa update: Digitalisation to slash processing time

The long wait for Schengen visas could soon be a thing of the past thanks to the upcoming digitalisation of the application procedure and the availability of more appointments to applicants.

In an interview, Anitta Hipper, a spokesperson for the Commission of the European Union told that the upcoming change in procedures will have a “significant impact” on the processing time of visa applications.

Currently, the average wait time for a Schengen visa application is approximately 15 working days.

Hipper said in the same interview that the application procedure will go fully online, as will the issuance of the visa itself, which means applicants will not be required to submit physical copies of their documents. This is expected to reduce the administrative burden associated with handling paper applications and placing the visa sticker.

In June, the Commission agreed to the digitalisation of the Schengen visa in a bid to “modernise, simplify, and harmonise” the procedures for non-EU country nationals applying for a visa and for the member states who need to grant such visas through digitalisation.

The regulation set out the digitalisation of the visa sticker and of the visa application through the creation of an EU online visa application platform, which also means applicants would not be required to leave their passports behind at a consulate or a visa application centre.

The digitalisation has been set for 2025, according to the Commission.

In the UAE, most Schengen states accept individual visa applications through application centres such as VFS Global, which has been facing unprecedented demand since the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. The high demand, especially during the holiday season, often leads to a long wait for visa appointment dates and has an impact on processing times and travel plans.

Hipper also addressed this in the interview, saying that the Commission had already called all the member states to improve their operational capacities and resolve the issue by releasing more appointments.

In an earlier interview with Zawya, Atul Marwah, Chief Operating Officer – MENA, VFS Global, had also spoken about how planning was key to getting visa applications processed in time for planned holidays, especially since the lifting of the pandemic.

“With the end of the Covid-19 pandemic and reopening of borders, the peak seasons have extended well beyond the regular summer and winter months. In 2022, we saw the first extended summer season, and this year is no different,” he stated.

Marwah also reminded travellers to factor in the visa appointment and processing times ahead of the upcoming Christmas break. “When we plan our travels, we always book flights, hotels and attractions in advance and leave visas for the last minute. Why? Plan ahead, book your appointment, and submit your application as early as the destination allows,” he said.




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