The European Union Commission has emphasized that the digitalization of the visa application process will significantly affect Schengen visa processing times.
Anitta Hipper, the European Commission Spokesperson for Home Affairs, that digitalizing the visa procedure will enhance processing times, potentially eliminating long waiting periods for decision outcomes.
With the full digitalization of Schengen visa applications, applicants will no longer need to submit physical copies of documents. This shift reduces the administrative complexities associated with managing paper applications and visa stickers.
The digitalization initiative entails Member States processing applications and issuing visas digitally. This move aims to alleviate the administrative burden tied to paper applications and visa stickers, ultimately leading to improved processing times.
The rules governing the digitalization of the visa procedure were agreed upon by the European Parliament and the Council, aiming to modernize, simplify, and harmonize visa procedures for third-country nationals applying for visas, as well as for EU Member States responsible for granting visas.
Digitalization will bring about two significant improvements to the visa process. Firstly, the EU Visa Application platform will establish a standardized and streamlined procedure, reducing costs associated with traveling to consulates or visa application centers.
Secondly, visas will be issued in digital format and digitally linked to the travel document. This eliminates the need for applicants to surrender their travel documents at the consulate or Visa Application Center for visa sticker placement, avoiding associated costs for document retrieval.
However, Hipper acknowledged that various factors influence Schengen visa application processing. Post-pandemic, Schengen Member States have witnessed a surge in visa applications, impacting processing procedures. Delays, especially during holiday periods, prompted the Commission to call upon Member States to enhance their operational capacities and address the issue by increasing appointment availability.
Some Member States have reported regular system updates to ensure smooth application processes and have bolstered staff numbers based on demand, ensuring timely processing of all applications.