UAE residents seeking to travel to Schengen countries will no longer have to endure long waits, queues, or submit their passports to process their visas, as the European Union (EU) moves one step closer to digitalizing the permit process. The EU member states’ ambassadors have agreed to the Council’s negotiating mandate for a proposal to digitalize the visa procedure, introducing the possibility of applying for a visa online and replacing the current visa sticker with a digital visa.

The aim of this move is to make the visa application procedure more efficient and improve the security of the Schengen area. Maria Malmer Stenergard, Swedish Minister for Migration, commented, “A digital Schengen visa will make it easier for legitimate travelers to apply and will at the same time help make the Schengen area safer.”

Tour operators are optimistic about the digital move, which they believe will be a great step towards promoting Europe as a destination here. VFS Global, an external service provider to virtually all EU and Schengen governments, has stated that it is fully aware of the EU’s plan to digitize the visa application process and looks forward to supporting these governments on their transformation journey.

For tourists, traveling to the 27 EU countries will now be hassle-free as applying for a visa appointment can sometimes be difficult, and submitting passports to agencies and waiting for the visa stamp can be inconvenient. Residents welcomed the digitization move and said they would be more inclined to travel to the EU. With summer around the corner, applying for visas online will be a great step as digitization and a simple online checklist could save a lot of time.

Under the proposed new rules, all applications for Schengen visas will be made through a visa application platform, a single website that will forward them to the relevant national visa systems. Visa applicants will be able to introduce all relevant data, upload electronic copies of their travel- and supporting documents, and pay their visa fees. They will also be notified of the decisions concerning their visa.

In-person appearance at the consulate will only be necessary for first-time applicants, persons whose biometric data are no longer valid, and those with a new travel document. When a person intends to visit several Schengen countries, the platform will automatically determine which one of them is responsible for examining the application based on the duration of stay.

Under the proposed new rules, visas will be issued in digital format, as a 2D barcode, cryptographically signed, reducing security risks related to counterfeit and stolen visa stickers. Overall, the move to digitize the visa application process is set to make the process more efficient, reduce wait times and improve security in the Schengen area.