Europe Introduces Digital Schengen Visa Process

In a significant move, Spain’s Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, emphasized the positive impact of the online visa system on simplifying the application process for travelers. EU foreign ministers declared the digitization of Europe’s Schengen visa application process on Monday, marking the end of traditional passport stickers. The upcoming online platform promises a simplified application procedure, enabling travelers to digitally submit documents and pay fees. Upon approval, applicants will be issued a cryptographically signed barcode.

The shift towards digitalization aligns with global trends, following the example of countries like Australia with similar online visa systems. This initiative also corresponds with broader plans such as the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) and the automated EU Entry/Exit System (EES). While the transition aims to streamline the process, it’s noted that first-time applicants or those with new passports may still necessitate in-person appointments.

Established in 1985, the Schengen Zone allows free movement of people and goods, eliminating the need for travel or customs documents. This facilitates tourism-related revenue for member countries and offers seamless travel for visitors. Croatia, along with the following countries, is part of the Schengen Zone: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Regarding visa requirements, the Schengen Zone permits nationals of certain countries to enter without a visa for stays up to 90 days within a 180-day period. EU nationals enjoy visa-exempt entry and are legally entitled to move and reside within each other’s borders, although limitations can apply in rare cases according to EU treaties. The implementation of the digital system is expected to take effect three weeks after its publication in the EU’s administrative gazette.

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