New visa rules eases travel to EU


The new rules will facilitate tourism, trade and business while enhancing security standards to detect those who pose a threat or have no right to enter the EU. They will also help improve cooperation with non-EU countries on the return and readmission of irregular migrants.

The tourism and travel industry plays a key role in the European economy, representing around 10% of the EU's GDP. Whilst EU Member States are among the world's leading tourist destinations, lengthy and cumbersome procedures can deter tourists from travelling to Europe.

The new rules include:

  • More flexible procedures: Travellers will be able to submit their applications up to 6 months in advance of their planned trip instead of the current 3 months, and in most cases, directly from their country of residence. Where available, they may also fill in and sign their applications electronically.
  • Multiple entry visas with longer validity: Frequent travellers with a positive visa history can receive a multiple-entry visa with a gradually increasing validity period from 1 year to a maximum of 5 years, saving time and costs for applicants and Member States. Travellers' fulfilment of entry conditions will be thoroughly and repeatedly verified in all cases.
  • Improving cooperation on readmission: The conditions for processing visa applications can be adapted depending on whether the non-EU country cooperates satisfactorily on the return and readmission of irregular migrants. If needed, the Commission, together with Member States, can decide on a more restrictive or a more generous implementation of certain provisions of the Visa Code, including the maximum processing time of applications, the length of validity of visas issued, the level of the visa fee and the exemption of such fees for certain travellers.

The new rules will now have to be formally approved by the European Council. After that, the adopted text will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and will become applicable 6 months later.

Current visa rules

The common EU visa policy facilitates travel to the EU for tourism and business purposes. In 2017, 14 million Schengen visas were issued for short stay visits.

The Schengen Area is a zone where 26 European countries abolished their internal borders, for the free and unrestricted movement of people. The Area covers most EU countries. Although not members of the EU, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein are also part of the Schengen zone. The European countries that are not part of the Schengen zone are: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Ireland, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Vatican City.

The current rules are set in the Visa Code and date back to 2010. Since then, the environment in which visa policy operates has significantly changed.

There are 105 non-EU countries and entities that require a visa to travel to the Schengen area. Generally, a short-stay visa issued by one of the Schengen States entitles its holder to travel throughout the 26 Schengen States for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

People can travel to more than one member country with the same Schengen visa as they can travel within the Schengen Zone as long as they don’t exceed the timeframe granted.



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