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European Union: New Regulation Amends EU Visa Policy

(Mar. 17, 2020) On February 2, 2020, Regulation (EU) 2019/1155 (Regulation), which establishes new rules for short-term visas, entered into force. The Regulation amends Regulation (EC) No 810/2009 (European Union (EU) Visa Code) and updates the common visa policy to better balance economic growth considerations (tourism and mobility) with concerns for security and migration. (Regulation recital 2.)

An EU regulation has general application. It is binding in its entirety and directly applicable in the EU member states. (Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) art. 288, para. 2.)

Background

The free movement of persons is one of the fundamental rights established and protected in the EU. (TFEU art. 21.) The common visa policy has been an essential tool in safeguarding this right by facilitating the establishment of an area without internal borders. (Regulation recital 1.) The Schengen Area was established in order to create a single common border by abolishing internal border controls, harmonizing migration rules, and creating a single visa policy. The Schengen Agreement became a core and binding part of EU law in 1997. (TFEU, Protocol (No.  19), art. 7.) Currently, there are 26 countries participating in the Schengen Area (twenty-two of the 27 EU member states and four non-EU states).

The procedures and conditions for short-term visas were established in the 2009 EU Visa Code. The EU Visa Code sets the rules for the visa application procedures and the conditions of issuance of short-term visas, officially known as Schengen visas. Long-term visas or residence permits are subject to national procedures.

The Regulation applies to citizens of 105 non-EU countries or entities, who need Schengen visas to travel to the Schengen Area. With a short-term Schengen visa, travelers can visit the 26 Schengen countries for a period not exceeding a total of 90 days within any 180-day period. (Regulation recital 3.)

Amendments

Visa Fees

The Regulation increases the cost of applying for a short-term Schengen visa to €80 (about US$87). (Regulation art. 1, para. 12(a).) The visa fee used to be €60 (about US$65). (EU Visa Code art. 16, para. 1.) This cost had remained unchanged since 2006. According to the European Commission, the increase will bring the visa fee to a level that takes inflation into consideration but is still lower than equivalent visa fees in other countries. The money from the fee increase will be used to

  • provide more consular coverage worldwide and increase the number of staff,
  • increase the speed of the application process, and
  • upgrade technical infrastructure to make it more user-friendly and increase the efficiency of detecting security and irregular migration risks.

The amount of the visa fee will be evaluated every three years. (Regulation art. 1, para. 12(h).)

Minors between the ages of ages 6 and 18 may be exempted from paying the visa fee. (Regulation art. 1, para. 12(e).) Previously, visa fees could be waived only for children between the ages of 6 and 12. (EU Visa Code art. 16, para. 5(a).)

Easier Applications

The Regulation allows the submission of applications in the applicant’s country of residence even if the competent member state does not have a consulate there. (Regulation recital 8.) For this purpose, if necessary, the member states will cooperate with each other or with external service providers. (Regulation art. 1, para. 6(a) & 6(e).) Applicants now must appear in person only when their fingerprints are to be collected, and they can fill in and electronically sign the visa application form where possible. (Regulation art. 1, para. 8(a).) Previously, applicants were required to submit their applications in person. (EU Visa Code art. 10, para. 1.)

Multiple-Entry Visas

Frequent or regular travelers to the EU with a positive visa history can benefit from clearer rules on obtaining multiple-entry visas with a long period of validity. (Regulation, recital 11.) Positive visa history means that the applicants have lawfully used previous visas and can prove their economic situation in the country of origin and their genuine intention to leave the Schengen Area. (Regulation art. 1, para. 18(c).)

Issuance of such visas will be objectively determined without being limited to specific travel purposes or categories of applicants, such as artists, business people, or athletes. (Regulation recital 11.) The duration of validity for such visas will gradually increase from one year up to a maximum of five years. (Regulation art. 1, para. 18(b).)

Time Frame to Submit Visa Applications

Travelers can submit their visa applications up to six months ahead of their planned travel. (Regulation art. 1, para. 7(a).) Previously, this period was three months. (EU Visa Code art. 9, para. 1.)

Cooperation with Third Countries on Readmission of Irregular Migrants

The Regulation links visa and migration policies by setting up a mechanism that regularly assesses the cooperation of third countries (non-EU countries) with regard to readmission of irregular migrants. (Regulation art. 1, para. 19; recital 13.) Depending on the level of cooperation, a restrictive and temporary application of certain conditions and rules—for example, on processing time, visa fees, or the issuance of multiple-entry visas—might be applied. (Regulation art. 1, paras. 19(1) & 19(5).) If the Commission considers that the third country cooperates sufficiently, it will suggest visa facilitations by way of implementing decisions. (Regulation art. 1, para. 19(8).) The level of cooperation will be assessed on the basis of objective criteria and taking into consideration such indicators as the number of actual returns as a percentage of the number of return decisions issued. (Regulation art. 1, para. 19(2).)

Summary of Unchanged Requirements

  • Applications are still decided within 15 calendar days of the date of submission. (EU Visa Code art. 23, para. 1.)
  • Adequate travel medical insurance covering the period of the first intended stay is required to obtain the visa. Minimum coverage requirements remain the same. (EU Visa Code art. 15.)
  • General rules for determining where to file the application remain the same. (EU Visa Code art. 5.)
  • The required documents that applicants must submit with their application remain the same. (EU Visa Code art. 10 para. 3.)

Prepared by Zeynep Timocin Cantekin, Law Library intern, under the supervision of Jenny Gesley, Foreign Law Specialist.