Bulgaria and Romania Will Issue Short-Term Schengen Visas by April 2024

| January 17, 2024
Bulgaria and Romania Will Issue Short-Term Schengen Visas by April 2024

Two more European countries will be able to issue short-term Schengen visas by April 2024.

According to immigration law firm Fragomen, Bulgaria and Romania are anticipated to issue Schengen C visas starting 1 April 2024.

Schengen C visas are short-term visas allowing entry and stay in the Schengen Area for up to 90 days within 180 days.

The issuance of Schengen short-stay visas by the two countries is linked to the decision of the European Union (EU) Council to allow Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen Area partially.

From 31 March 2024, there will be no border checks for air and sea travel between Bulgaria, Romania, and Schengen Area member countries.

Without border control inspections, travel between Bulgaria, Romania, and Schengen Area countries will be quicker and easier.

Border checks will continue to apply to those traveling by land. Still, talks regarding removing restrictions at land borders will continue throughout the year.

“Their accession will boost travel, trade and tourism and will further consolidate the internal market,” the European Commission said in a statement.

It added, “An enlarged Schengen area will make the EU stronger as a Union, internally and on the global stage.”

What is the Schengen Area

Europe’s border-free Schengen Area ensures freedom of movement for 450 million EU citizens and non-EU nationals residing or visiting the EU.

This means they can travel freely, work, and live in an EU country without any special formalities.

The Schengen Area comprises the 23 EU member countries and neighboring countries such as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

Bulgaria and Romania have been EU members since 2007. The European Commission first confirmed the two countries were ready to become part of the Schengen Area in 2011.

Since then, both countries have demonstrated that they meet the requirements of becoming a Schengen member.

Experts reaffirmed their readiness in 2022 and 2023 after implementing measures for cooperation in security, policy, and judicial matters.

Bulgaria and Romania joining the Schengen Area marks the ninth expansion by area and population.

Who needs visas when visiting the Schengen Area

Citizens of certain countries, including British citizens, can travel to the Schengen Area for tourism or business purposes without requiring a visa.

Visa-exempt nationals can enter and travel within the Schengen Area for short stays of up to 90 days within any 180-day period.

However, individuals who plan to work, study, or live in an EU country may need a visa or permit.

Non-citizens of a Schengen member country must obtain a Schengen visa for short trips to the area.

With a short-term Schengen visa, individuals can travel freely within the Schengen Area for short stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period. The visa allows this mainly for tourism or business purposes.

Digitizing the Schengen visa applications

The EU is also in the process of digitizing the Schengen visa process. It is currently creating a new EU-wide online platform for applications by 2025.

Transitioning to online Schengen visa applications aims to make the process smoother and more effective for non-EU nationals and member state authorities.

Most digital Schengen visa applications will be processed through the EU Visa Application Platform (VAP), regardless of travel plans or purposes.

In-person appointments will no longer be required except for first-time applicants or those with invalid biometric data.

Those eligible to apply online will use the EU VAP platform to complete their visa application, respond to travel-related queries, and upload necessary documents.

EU VAP will then automatically send the applications to the respective member countries for processing.

Additionally, visa fees can be paid through a gateway linked to the EU VAP, directly transferring the payments to the member state.

Future of European travel

Apart from digitizing Schengen visa applications, the EU will implement digital measures to secure its borders.

In October 2024, the EU is set to launch the Entry/Exit System (EES). This automated border system electronically records entries and exits instead of stamping passports upon arrival at the border.

Non-visa nationals and those with short-stay visas entering the Schengen Area must provide fingerprints and facial biometrics at the border.

By mid-2025, non-visa nationals will also need a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) for short trips to the Schengen Area.

The EES and ETIAS will be requirements for British travelers visiting any Schengen member country.

Conversely, those who can travel to the United Kingdom (UK) without a visa, such as EU citizens, will require an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA).

The new digital travel permit for the UK is valid for short trips of less than six months per visit. It can be used for tourism, visiting family and friends, short-course study, transit, and permitted business activities.

The UK ETA is also mandatory for those coming to the UK for temporary creative work and allowed medical treatments. This is provided they comply with additional requirements.