EU announces plans to simplify Schengen visa applications with online portal
The European Commission has unveiled plans to simplify the Schengen visa application process with a new online platform. By digitalising the current system, the European Union hopes to make it easier for non-EU nationals to apply for a visa and travel to countries within the EU, including the Netherlands.
EU unveils online visa application platform
Under the plans, announced at the end of April, the Schengen visa application process would go fully digital, allowing applicants to apply for a visa online via a unified EU platform on the internet, regardless of which Schengen country they want to visit.
Currently, certain non-EU nationals have to go to a consulate to submit an application and then get a sticker in their passport, but the EU has long been committed to the project of adopting digital visas, on the basis that they are less vulnerable to forgery.
The new visa application platform would contain up-to-date information about visa requirements, and allow applicants to create an account, fill out an application form, upload their documents and pay for the visa. Applicants would be able to log back in to check the status of their application and receive updates. It would also be possible to extend the visa, if necessary, online.
However, first-time applicants, people with new travel documents, and previous applicants whose biometric data has expired would still be required to apply in-person at their local consulate to submit new biometric identifiers.
New online applications make visas more accessible
The new system, which would provisionally come into effect in 2026, still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and Council. Once passed, online applications would be possible for Schengen visas for all countries in the border-free zone, which includes most EU countries as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
Announcing the new process, Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, said: “Today we are bringing the EU's visa policy into the digital age. With some Member States already switching to digital, it is vital the Schengen area now moves forward as one.”
Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, added, “A modern visa process is crucial to make travel to the EU easier for tourism and business. Half of those coming to the EU with a Schengen visa consider the visa application burdensome, one-third have to travel long distances to ask for a visa. It is high time that the EU provides a quick, safe and web-based EU visa application platform for the citizens of the 102 third countries that require a short-term visa to travel to the EU.”
Note that the new Schengen visa system is different from the ETIAS (European Travel Information System), which is currently under development. The ETIAS will be used by non-EU travellers who are exempt from visas but need to apply for travel authorisation to come to the EU.