I know you must have heard that there have been some changes to the Schengen Visa Code. For those of you planning to travel to countries within the European Union, it is vital that you are up to speed with those amendments to fast track the process towards a hassle free travel.
The Visa Code is a set of rules which regulate the application, processing and issuance of short term visas to countries within the European Union, what we commonly refer to as Schengen Visas.
Over the years, countries within Europe have consistently ranked top tourist destinations for a lot of people from the world over. That also means that the number of applications for Schengen visas have been on a steady rise and that is not about to change anytime soon despite the visa application procedures and laws remaining stagnant throughout that time. Therefore, there was a need to revise the Visa Code to oversee movement within the EU member states, the application and processing of short term Schengen Visas and so on.
In May of 2008, the European Commission (EU) took the decision to take on a proposal to amend the Visa Code whose purpose was to reinforce the visa policy. This would be done without disregarding security concerns, general external relations, migration and economic considerations.
The Code is commonly known as Regulation (EC) No 810/2009 which came into force in 2010 and was applied by all European Union Member countries and states assigned with the execution of the Schengen Acquis. The role of the revised visa policy proposal according to those commissioned on it suggested:
1. More increase when it came to relation and cooperation with third countries in:
i) Facilitate visa procedures for those that frequently visited the Schengen Area.
ii) Reward countries that collaborated in readmission of illegal migrant and other fields by easing visa procedures.
The Commission went ahead to adopt the proposal. In April 2019, the European Parliament backed it up and later in June 2019, the Council of the European Union went ahead and gave it a green light, the final step towards its implementation.
Below are the revised changes effected from the 2nd February, 2020:
- The visa schengen rates shot up from 60 Euros to 80 Euros for adults. Children from 0-6 years are exempted from visa charges. Children between from 6-12yrs will be required to pay 40 Euros, an increase from the previous 35 Euros.
- The application forms can now be filled and submitted online unlike before when you would be required to either fill in and print out the form to present at the visa centre during your appointment. Now, you can easily complete, sign electronically and submit the form online as well. That is awesome, right¿
- Previously, you could not lodge an application 3 months prior to travel. Now, it will be possible for you to apply as early as 6 months prior to your travel. The minimum time one can apply for a visa however still remains at 15 calendar days before your intended time of travel.
- Seamen on duty will now be in a position to apply for visas up to 9 months prior to their expected arrival at their respective Schengen ports.
- Not all EU member states are present in every country and that inconveniences the nationals from such countries because whenever they need to apply for visas, they have to visit neighbouring countries to access the embassies and lodge their applications. That is now a thing of the past. There is now an obligation for all member states to have presence in every third country through an embassy or consulate. If that is not the case then the member state is expected to subcontract Schengen visa service to an external service provider to facilitate that process. Those service providers will be allowed to charge you a fee, which must not be more than the set standard rate. Great, isn’t it?
- I believe you or others you may know have a good travel history within the EU countries but still have not had a visa issued for longer than 3-6 months visa at any given time when you/they reapply for Schengen visas. The good news now is, if you maintain a positive travel history that is, following the visa requirements for the particular countries where you have been issued a visa, exiting before the visa expiry and so on, you might benefit by getting your visa issued for longer term, say multiple-entry for up to 1-5 years. Yeah, you read right. So stick to the rules and reap that reward. No one will be exempt from this benefit although a majority of those that will be prioritized are seafarers, business people, artists, athletes and people traveling for the purpose of advancing their careers.
For further information, please visit the embassy/consulate/respective embassy appointed service provider for the visa processing either on their websites where there are contact details provided to clarify on these and other queries you may have. Feel free to drop them an email or call them directly.
All the best.