In the European Union, tourism plays one of the key roles in the economy. The number of visa applications for EU countries (Eurozone) has increased by 59% since 2009, from 10.2 million to 16 million in 2018. At the same time, the visa application process has not changed since 2010 and was in need of a revamp.
Currently, nationals of 105 countries require a visa to travel through, or into, the Schengen zone, which includes 26 countries (22 EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway). Visits to the countries listed are subject to a single short-term visa valid for a maximum of 90 days within a 180-day period.
The deadline for processing an application remains 15 days and, in more complex cases, a maximum of 45 days even with the amendment to the Visa Code (Regulation (EU) 2019/1155 of the European Parliament and the Council of 20 June 2019). The conditions for obtaining a visa, including completing the application form, a valid passport, a photo, a health insurance certificate and various other certificates (e.g. a certificate of guaranteed accommodation) remain unchanged.
However, the following changes do apply:
i) It is now possible to apply for a visa 6 months before the intended travel date, at the earliest, as opposed to the previous limit of 3 months.
ii) Applications can be submitted in the country of residence (at the representative office of the country of intended visit or with external visa application services (visa centers)), in some countries electronic applications are now an option. In the case of the latter, applicants have to register their 59 months for fingerprint.
iii) The rules for issuing multiple-entry visas with longer validity are being amended to simplify the procedures for regular visitors and to allow for a gradual extension of the visa from one to five years.
iv) The visa fee has increased from EUR 60 to EUR 80, as the previous fee did not cover all the costs associated with issuing the visa. However, this increase does not affect visa fees for nationals of third countries who have a visa facilitation agreement with the European Union, which remain at EUR 35 (e.g. Armenia and Russia).
v) Children under 6 years of age are still exempt from the fee, while the fee for children between 6 and 12 years of age is EUR 40, i.e. half the adult visa fee.
vi) Additionally, Member States may, at their discretion, issue visas to minors under 18 years of age free of charge.
Author: Tina Marciuš Ravnikar, associate