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EU Visa Policy: Commission welcomes agreement on upgrading the Visa Information System

The European Parliament and the Council yesterday reached a provisional agreement on the Commission's proposal to revise and upgrade the Visa Information System (VIS). The new rules agreed yesterday will allow for more thorough background checks on applicants for visa and residence permits, better information exchange between Member States on holders of such documents, and will ensure full interoperability with other EU-wide databases.

Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, yesterday said:

"Strong external borders require up-to-date and interoperable IT systems to keep track of arrivals in the Schengen area. In normal times, millions of visas are issued to non-EU nationals – a sign of Europe's attractiveness for business, tourism or studies. The upgraded Visa Information System will contribute to making our borders more secure, by contributing to the assessment of risks and giving border guards better access to information. Together with the other new and upgraded information systems, the new Visa Information System should be operational and fully interoperable by the end of 2023."

Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson yesterday said:

"A modern and secure visa process is crucial to welcome legitimate travellers while keeping Europe safe. The upgraded Visa Information System will remove blind spots and give visa authorities and border guards access to the information they need to do their jobs properly. The revised system will contain robust data protection safeguards, particularly for protecting biometric data of children. By doing so, we strike a crucial balance between limiting the access to biometric data of children and fighting against child trafficking."

Enhancing security and closing information gaps

Under the rules agreed yesterday, the upgraded VIS database will enhance internal security and improve border management through the following measures:

  • Enhanced security checks across all databases: all visa applications recorded in the VIS will now be automatically checked against all other EU information systems for security and migration, such as the Entry-Exit System (to become operational in 2022), the Schengen Information System and the European Criminal Records Information System on non-EU citizens through the European Search Portal. This obligatory cross-check will detect applicants using multiple identities and identify anyone posing risks in terms of security or non-respect of migration rules;
  • Better data and information exchange: Currently no information is held at EU level on long-stay visas and residence permits. The upgraded VIS database will extend its scope to include such information. This will allow border guards to quickly determine whether a long-stay visa or a residence permit used to cross the Schengen external borders is valid and in the hands of its legitimate holder, thus closing an important security gap.
  • More efficient return procedures: From now on, copies of the applicant's travel document will also be included in the VIS database. This measure, coupled with the authorisation for Frontex teams to have access to the VIS, will facilitate the identification and readmission of people subject to a return procedure who do not have travel documents, thereby increasing the efficiency of the EU's return policy;
  • Strengthened capacity to prosecute and prevent crime: Law enforcement authorities and Europol will now have a more structured access to the VIS for the prevention, detection or investigation of terrorist offences or other serious crimes, under strict conditions and in full respect of the EU's data protection rules. Access to the VIS will be also opened to law enforcement authorities for the purpose of searching for or identifying missing or abducted persons and victims of trafficking.

Click here for the full press release


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