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Visa reciprocity with US, Canada & Brunei: EU mulls next move

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Visa reciprocity with US, Canada & Brunei: EU mulls next move


(BRUSSELS) - With the U.S., Canada and Brunei continuing to apply visa requirements for citizens of some EU Member States, the European Commission has assessed the legal, political and economic consequences of a possible temporary suspension of the visa waiver with these countries.

The action of United States, Canada and Brunei is despite the fact that their own citizens benefit from an EU-wide visa waiver. Full reciprocity was achieved with Japan in December 2015 and with Australia in June 2015.

The political Communication adopted by the Commission covers the state of play and ways forward with regard to the situation of non-reciprocity with the third countries in the area of visa policy.

Visa waiver reciprocity is seen by the EU as a principle of the EU's common visa policy and, under EU rules adopted by the European Parliament and Council in 2001, if, within 24 months, non-reciprocity by third countries is not corrected then this can be cause for suspending the visa waiver for citizens of those third countries.

Any such decision must take into account the consequences of the suspension of the visa waiver for the external relations of the EU and its Member States. The Commission has an obligation to react once the 24 month period expires. In the case of the U.S., Canada and Brunei, that deadline, set by the EU legislator, has been reached today, 12 April 2016.

This, says the Commission, is why it is inviting the European Parliament and the Council to urgently launch discussions and to take a position on the most appropriate way forward in light of the assessment provided by the Commission and to inform the Commission on their respective positions by 12 July 2016 at the latest.

The Commission had received notifications in 2014 regarding non-reciprocity cases relating to non-reciprocity situations with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Japan and the U.S.

The non-reciprocity situation with Australia and Japan has since been resolved, meaning both countries now provide visa free travels for all EU nationals.

Canada today applies a visa requirement for the citizens of Bulgaria and Romania while the U.S. require visa for the citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania. Brunei still applies visa requirements for the citizens of Croatia.

According to the visa reciprocity mechanism as laid down by the European Parliament and the Council, if a third country has not lifted the visa requirements within 24 months after a notification of a non-reciprocity situation, the Commission is required to verify the situation and propose a temporary suspension of the visa waiver for the citizens of the third countries concerned for a period of 12 months.

The United Kingdom and Ireland do not take part in the development of the common visa policy and would not be bound by a visa waiver suspension.

The Communication provides an assessment of the consequences of a possible suspension and the feasibility of its practical implementation. According to the assessment, it is highly unlikely that Member States would be able to process the increased number of visa applications in accordance with the Visa Code within 90 days following the entry into force of such visa requirement decision and moreover such visa requirement could result in a decrease in the number of travellers from Canada and the U.S. (and also from Brunei). The suspension would also likely entail considerable, economic consequences, notably for the aviation industry, as well as have a substantial impact on the EU's external relations with two strategic partners.

Further information

Commission memo – EU visa reciprocity mechanism - Questions and Answers

Communication - State of play and way forward as regards the situation of non-reciprocity

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