If you’re travelling to the EU/Schengen countries from 2020, brace up for a few changes in the Schengen Visa rule. In recent years, the European Union has developed, amended and implemented new regulations, schemes and technological tools. These are part of efforts to make travelling safer and easier, for both travellers and their authorities. The implementation of these amendments means in the next years, travelling to Europe will be subject to huge changes. In this piece, we bring you some of the recently announced changes:

1. No more travelling to another country to submit a visa application

No traveller will ever again need to go to another country to apply for a Schengen visa, as it has happened so far in many parts of the world. The amended Schengen border code, adopted by the Council of the European Union last June, intends to provide faster and clearer procedures for frequent travellers to the Schengen territory.

Among others, the updated code seeks to make it easier for travellers to submit an application without having to travel to another country to apply in cases where a representative authority of their Schengen destination country is absent in their country of residence.

According to the new Schengen Visa Code, starting from the first months of 2020, every Schengen Member should either:

  • Be represented by another competent Member State for examining and deciding on applications on behalf of that Member State, or
  • Cooperate with an external service provider, in that third country, outsourcing the collecting of Schengen visa applications.

2. Higher Schengen Visa Fees

Travellers in need of a Schengen Visa will need to pay higher visa fees starting from January 2020, due to the Schengen visa code changes.

The Schengen visa fees will increase by 33.3% from 60 euros to 80 euros once the amended regulation comes into force. The increase is to increase the tools available to respond to the challenges posed by illegal migration.

Switzerland has already aligned its corresponding regulations with the updated visa code. It became the first Schengen member country to announce that its embassies and representative authorities would charge Schengen visa applicants a fee of 80 euros instead of 60 euros from February 2, 2020. The other Schengen Members are expected to increase their fees about that time as well.

3. Visa Applications Can Be Lodged Up to Six Months in Advance

So far, Schengen visa applicants were not permitted to file an application earlier than three months before their intended travel date to the Schengen Area, however, the new code permits applicants to do so. By the new rule, travellers will be able to submit their applications up to 6 months in advance of their planned trip (9 months for seafarers), instead of the current 3 months, and in most cases, directly from their country of residence, but applicant must lodge such application not later than 15 calendar days before the start of the intended visit.

4. No More Passport Stamps

Passports of non-EU travellers entering the Schengen borders will no longer be stamped after 2022.

The new scheme of the European Union called Entry/Exit System (EES) is a system that will register entry and exit data and refusal of entry data of third-country nationals crossing the external borders of the Member States and determining the conditions for access to the EES for law enforcement purposes.

The system will thus make passport stamps unnecessary and replace them once it starts registering and storing all entry/exit data.

5. ETIAS for Visa-Free Traveling

World travellers privileged with visa-free entry to the Schengen member states will also be affected in the near future by the recent changes that the EU is to implement. The most important change is that as of January 2021, travellers will need to apply for an online authorization, and wait for its approval before heading to the EU.

The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) will be the first scheme in Europe that obliges the traveller to apply for authorization before undertaking a trip. It is a system which resembles the US Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

The application procedure may take about 15 minutes. Each ETIAS application will undergo a detailed security check to determine whether the applicant can be allowed to enter any Schengen Zone country.

Travellers will receive an ETIAS confirmation in their email, which they need to print and show at the Schengen port of entry.

6. Advanced Border Control Technology

Aside from the Entry/Exit System which will replace passport stamps, other forms of advanced technology are being tested at the EU ports of entry in a bid to make it easier to cross the brooders.

Currently, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) is testing a new border check technology at the Lisbon Airport Authority (ANA), in cooperation with the Border Service of Portugal (SEF), known as the “Biometrics on the Move“.

Instead of standing in queues to show the passport to a border guard, travellers are able to cross the border almost seamlessly thanks to face recognition and touchless scanning of fingerprints. The technology has been developed in a bid to make border crossing not only easier for travellers but also more secure at the same time.

Besides, a new artificial intelligence programme with the face of an avatar known as the iBorderCtrl programme could soon start functioning alongside border guards. Its main task will be detecting people lying on their identity, the purpose of entry and their destination.

7. UK Nationals Traveling to Schengen Area

While the EU is making travelling to its territory easier for travellers generally, United Kingdom nationals may, however, be in a disadvantaged position after Brexit. Presently, UK nationals have the privilege of freely moving across Europe without any visa or even passports, however, once the process of leaving the EU is over, Britons will be treated as non-EU countries are.

Though Britons will not require a visa to visit EU member states, they will, however, need to apply for and get an ETIAS starting from January 2021.

In addition, Britons will have to be quite more careful with their passports. The Schengen states want travellers, even those entering visa-free, to have a passport valid for another three months beyond their intended stay. The passport must not be older than ten years, as well.

They will also have to wait in lines alongside the nationals of 62 other visa-free countries, as they will no longer be permitted to pass through the gates reserved for EU nationals.


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Reference: Official Journal of the European Union

Schengen Visa Info

Michael Alvin

Michael Alvin

Creative Writer
Michael Alvin is a lawyer and a UNESCO certified journalist. At Afro Tourism, he blends creativity with his training in telling moving stories about his personal experience on his various trips across Africa.
Michael Alvin
Michael Alvin
Michael Alvin

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