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States confirm update of EU's common visa policy

States confirm update of EU's common visa policy

Photo © Yahia LOUKKAL - Fotolia

(BRUSSELS) - EU states confirmed a plan to modernise the EU's common visa policy Wednesday, adapting the rules to growing security concerns, the challenges of migration and new opportunities offered by technological developments.

The informal agreement agreed by EU ambassadors confirmed an agreement reached between representatives of the European Parliament and the Romanian Presidency of the Council on the proposal amending the visa code.

The agreed changes are supposed to make it easier for legitimate travellers to obtain a visa to come to Europe, facilitating tourism, trade and business, whilst strengthening security and reducing irregular migration risks.

The agreement has been welcomed by the European Commission. "The new visa rules will facilitate travel for the millions of legitimate travellers who visit the EU every year to the benefit of our travel and tourism industry," said the Commission for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos: "At the same time, they will also improve and strengthen our security standards to detect those who pose a threat or have no right to enter the EU. The new rules will also enable us to use the leverage of our visa policy in cooperation with non-EU countries when it comes to the return and readmission of irregular migrants."

New rules will provide faster and clearer procedures for legitimate travellers, notably by:

  • allowing for the lodging of applications up to 6 months and no later than 15 days before the trip
  • providing for the possibility of filling in and signing the application form electronically
  • introducing a harmonised approach to issuing multiple entry visas to regular travellers with a positive visa history for a period which increases gradually from 1 to 5 years.

To ensure member states can better cover the costs of visa processing without constituting a deterrent for visa applicants, the visa fee will be increased to 80 euros.

The regulation also introduces a mechanism to assess every three years the need to revise the amount of the visa fee.

The regulation should also contribute to improving cooperation with third countries on readmission by introducing a new mechanism for using visa policy as leverage.

Under this mechanism, the Commission will regularly assess third countries' cooperation on readmission. Where a country is not cooperating, the Commission will propose that the Council adopt an implementing decision applying specific restrictive visa measures related to visa processing and, eventually, visa fee.

On the other hand, if a country is found to be cooperating on readmission, the Commission may propose to the Council to adopt an implementing decision providing for a reduction in visa fees, a reduction in the time to decide on visa applications or an increase in the period of validity of multiple entry visas. The implementing decision will be valid for no more than one year, and can be renewed.

The visa code entered into force in 2010. It covers the rules regarding processing of applications and issuance of short stay visas to the EU (visas for stays not exceeding 90 days in any 180 days period).

Factsheet: A stronger, more efficient and secure EU visa policy

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