Council adopts changes to visa system in a bid to boost security

Travellers queue for passport control at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport. [Henrik Montgomery/EPA]

EU member states have approved changes to the European visa system aimed at increasing security in the Schengen area by providing for greater monitoring of short-stay and residence permits.

In a statement on Thursday (27 May) the Council said that it had adopted the regulation amending the Visa Information System (VIS), noting that it is now up to the European Parliament to approve the legal text so that it can then be published in the Official Journal of the EU and enter into force.

“In response to the changing challenges of migration and security, the EU is improving its VIS, a tool used by member states’ authorities to register and verify people applying for a short-stay visa to enter the Schengen area,” the Council pointed out.

Cited by the note and representing the Portuguese presidency of the Council, the minister of internal administration said that, “in recent years, the EU has constantly worked to improve controls on people entering the Schengen area,” through the adoption of new systems for travel authorisation, entry and exit and linking databases.

“The VIS update is the next step in this direction. The new rules will allow better checks on visa applicants to identify those who may pose a threat to security or risk abusing our migration rules,” Eduardo Cabrita added.

Specifically, after the entry into force, the security of the short-stay visa procedure will be reinforced, and this control system will cover long-stay permits and residence permits.

Until now, the VIS has only collected information on short-stay visas, but this will change because all these permits allow free movement within the Schengen area.

At the same time, the VIS will be interconnected with other EU systems and databases, namely the Schengen Information System (SIS), the Entry and Exit System (EES), the European Travel Information Authorisation System (ETIAS), data from the European Police Office (Europol) and the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) and Eurodac, which stores fingerprints of asylum seekers and migrants.

Another planned change is the digitalisation of the biographical data page of travel documents, which will be available in digital format.

To combat child trafficking, the age for fingerprinting children will be lowered from 12 to 6 years.

An upper age limit will also be introduced, including fingerprints of persons over 75 years of age not included in the VIS.

In addition, the current paper photograph will be replaced by a facial image with sufficient resolution and image quality to be used in automated biometric matching.

Created in 2011, the VIS is a database containing biographic (name, gender, age) and biometric (photograph and fingerprint) data of third-country nationals authorised to move within the Schengen area.

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe