EU Commission Sets Out the Steps for Getting Back to Visa Processing
The EC has proposed the Schengen Member Countries to retake the visa operations abroad as soon as it can be, insisting that the current health situation and the progressive reopening of the borders allow visa issuance to third-country citizens that need of one to travel to the Schengen Area.
On June 11, the Commission transmited its recommendation on the reopening of domestic Schengen borders on June 15, so Europeans could move and travel within the borderless area freely, as they used to do before the COVID-19 hit the continet.
Lately, the Commission has proposed that the Member States should start permiting third-country nationals to come in the EU. This will start from July 1 and will be determined by the Coronavirus status in each third-country.
Within the framework of the European Commission recommendations, the retake of visa operations abroad has been emphasised, since that would help the nationals of the 105 Schengen Visa Countries to travel to the EU:
“As soon as the travel restrictions at the EU’s external borders will gradually start to be lifted, the resumption of visa operations should be synchronised with these developments. The guiding principles for this process are set out in the Commission Communication on a third assessment of the application of temporary restrictions on non-essential travel to the EU,”.
The Commission ensures that it is crucial that the Member States to resume visa operations in a coordinated manner in each third country, as well as downsizing of limitations at the external borders, and the successive resumption of international travel connections.
EU also recommended that the passport holders the Western Balkan countries — Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia — should be the first to benefit when the travel restrictions would be off, as of July 1, because their situation of COVID-19 is even better than that it is in the EU.
Despite the recommendations regarding the retake of visa procesing, the European Commission is aware that the volume of visas will most likely rstay behind the previous numbers until the end of 2020, even in those countries where tramitations are normally elevated.
In general, the main points of the Commission’s recommendations are the following:
- When the travel restrictions are ended for a country, all Member States should reopen visa operations in that specific country.
- Minimum visa services should stay available for people classified as “essential travellers”, even if general travel restrictions continue to be in place.
- In case of minor visa processing capability, priority should be given to citizens considered “essential travellers” and “key workers”.
- If circumstances allow, Member Countries should engage to restart operations, at the same time, in each abroad country and restart full representation of other Member States in visa topics, where appropriate.
- The Member States must carry on applying the universal rules of the Visa Code when processing applications and granting visas.
- Health checks for visa application aren’t effective and should not be mandatory, as the applications are procesed minimum 15 days before the planned travel and can be up to six months before.
Besides, the European Commission suggests to the Member Countries to exercise caution with the hygiene measures including physical distancing, mandatory use of face masks, installation of disinfectant stations, etc.
Also, the EC proposes to make previous appointment mandatory and to limit physical interaction as much as possible, by even allowing fee payments through contactless systems as online payment or remote payment.
And per the processing of visa applications, the Commission underlines that theexecution of the common visa policy must stay consistent, since a digression from the general procesures can imply negative effects.
“Member States should refrain from restricting the length of validity of visas as it is not an effective tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In addition, possession of a visa does not give the holder an absolute right to cross the external border, as entry conditions pursuant to the Schengen Borders Code will be verified again at the time of travel.”
To end with, the European Commission accentuates that multiple entry visas should be given under the general norms, since visas with extensive validity decrease the workload, since travellers will need to apply for a new visa less often.