Schengen Visa Digital Application Platform To Go Online In 2026

| November 21, 2023
New Schengen Visa Digital Application Platform To Go Online In 2026

By 2026, Schengen visa applications will be entirely online. 

The European Union (EU) Council, on 13 November 2023, adopted the new digitalization of the Schengen visa application process. 

The Schengen area comprises 23 of the 27 EU member countries and country neighbors Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein that have abolished internal border controls.

A Schengen visa is a short-stay permit allowing travel within the Schengen area countries for up to 90 days within 180 days. 

It simplifies traveling to various European countries for tourism, business, or transit purposes by removing the need for multiple visas.

Fernando Grande-Marlaska Gómez, Acting Minister for the Interior, Spain, shared in a press release that applying for a Schengen visa online will significantly improve both the travelers and authorities’ experience.

“It will simplify the application process for travelers and, at the same time, will ease the burden on national administrations, which will be able to respond more quickly and effectively,” said Grande-Marlaska Gómez.

The shift to online Schengen visa applications was first proposed in April 2022. 

On 13 June 2023, the Council negotiators and the European Parliament provisionally agreed on rules to digitalize the visa procedure.

The changes to expect in the digital Schengen visa application 

The shift to online Schengen visa applications will still take time to be fully operational. 

The online website or platform is yet to be developed but is poised to go live and accessible in 2026

However, Member states will have two more years after that to make necessary investments to gradually discontinue their national portals and switch to the unified EU online visa application platform.

Here’s what travelers need to know so far:

One platform for all applications

All applicants who want to apply for a visa to the EU, regardless of the number of countries they plan to visit or the purpose of their travel (e.g., tourism, visiting family, or business), will be required to use a single online platform, except for a few exemptions.

On the platform, applicants will be able to do the following steps required:

  • Complete their application by entering relevant information, such as their name, passport info, occupation, and travel history.
  • Answer questions about their trip, like funding, accommodation, and flights.
  • Upload digital copies as proof for each requirement, such as passport scans, digital biometric photos, flight tickets, and proof of accommodation.
  • Pay for the fees on the same platform.

The platform will automatically decide which Schengen country to process the visa application and forward it to the authorities.

In-person visits will only be required for some applications.

Most applicants will no longer need to appear in person at consulates and visa centers. 

It will only be mandatory for some, such as first-time applicants, individuals with invalid biometric data, and travelers with new travel documents.

The Council expects applicants who must still visit consulates and visa centers to submit their application won’t have to wait for appointments or long queues, as many applications will shift online.

Digital barcodes will replace visa stickers.

Travelers who receive a valid Schengen visa will not have visa stickers to stick on their passports. 

The permit will be in the form of a cryptographically signed barcode. Some countries already have visas digitally linked to passports and do not need a sticker.

Advantages of a simpler and faster visa application process 

While the grounds for approving a visa for travel in the Schengen area remain the same, the online Schengen visa application poses significant improvements. 

The digital process streamlines the application and lowers the cost for travelers and host countries, reducing the need for physical paperwork and in-person appointments. 

It is an eco-friendly and energy-efficient alternative to traditional paper-based and in-person applications.

Making the visa application more accessible and faster can eliminate the practice of “visa shopping” or submitting applications in several Schengen countries. 

The digital barcodes will also help prevent falsification, fraud, and theft of physical visa stickers and improve the overall safety of the Schengen Area.

Schengen visa, ETIAS, and UK ETA

While the Schengen Visa is a widely utilized document for travel within the Schengen Area, citizens from more than 60 countries worldwide, including Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States, do not need to apply for Schengen visas for short visits. 

Visa-exempt nationals must apply online for the European Travel Information and Authorisation System or ETIAS, a new digital permit system to enhance European border security, set to launch in 2025.

When visiting the United Kingdom (UK), which is no longer a part of the European Union, travelers must apply for a UK Visa or an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) to be allowed entry into England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. 

The ETA is a similarly new digital travel permit system that visa-exempt nationals must apply for before arriving in the country. 

Currently, ETA online applications are available for Qatar nationals and will soon be open for all citizens of other visa-exempt countries.

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