Since several new proposals were submitted to the EU, agreed upon by the European Council and European Parliament, in 2016 including the Entry-Exit System (EES) and the ETIAS visa waiver system, the EU Commission has found itself in a transitory position where changes to the EU Visa Policy need to be made in order to maintain a strong, efficient and secure Europe.

Amendments to EU Common Visa Policy

The European common visa policy is being updated this year in several aspects due to the pressure of increased security and health threats to the bloc. The general aim of all new proposals, including the Europe ETIAS visa, is to heighten security levels, control irregular migration and facilitate travel for legitimate tourists and trade.

The EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, stated, when announcing the amendments to the EU Common Visa Policy, that the proposed reforms will improve cooperation with non-EU countries and allow tourists who follow the proper procedures, regarding European visa application and regulations, to be considered for certain benefits.

10% of the GDP of the EU comes from the travel and tourism sector therefore it is high on the list of priorities for member states to ensure a controlled, stable and secure visa system. The changes have been set forth to guarantee the continuation of this exceptional fact and improve the positive impact of having a straightforward travel visa system in place in Europe.

  • The EU has stated that by reducing decision time for visa applications from 15 to 10 days, it will facilitate the visa issuing process.
  • Another of the changes to be made refers to allowing travelers to apply up to 6 months prior to their visit instead of the current 3 months which will thus permit more tourists to easily obtain their Schengen visa.
  • Current applications for a Europe visa will now be available online to complete including an electronic signature which will facilitate and speed up the application process. When the the European travel authorization comes into effect in 2021, tourists from ETIAS eligible countries will also be able to complete a short and quick application online in order to obtain a European visa waiver electronically.

The future of the European visa system

Other amendments to the current European Common Visa Policy include an increase in the EU visa fee to collect funds to support an increase in the security force, strictly regulated 7-day visa issuance at external European land and sea borders to facilitate short term tourist stays and the possibility of permitting regular travelers who are trusted by the authorities according to their migration, security and health history, to be allowed longer-stay visas from 1 to 3 years.

Several of these adaptations will be permitted to all those eligible for the ETIAS visa once it is active. The latter being a standard condition of the ETIAS visa waiver; valid for 3 years, the multiple entry travel authorization will give eligible citizens the advantage of applying electronically once for a total of 3 years while the corresponding passport remains in vigor.

Changes to the Visa Information System (VIS) planned for spring of this year will make way for the implementation of the ETIAS program in 2021 as the reforms will allow easier and quicker access to databases being created with regards visa applicant information. The ETIAS application will include a brief list of questions for tourists to complete regarding health, security and immigration issues, this information, along with the data included in the Entry-Exit System (EES) and other European-wide security databases, will allow member states to determine the applicant’s eligibility for an ETIAS travel authorization.