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Upcoming changes in Schengen visa rules

In 2014, the Commission proposed a revamp of the EU’s visa code which sets out the rules for issuing short-term visas. The Code relates to “Schengen visas” therefore it applies to all EU Member States except the UK, Ireland, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria as well as to the non-EU Schengen associates (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein). This proposal was eventually unsuccessful, since the European Parliament and the Council disagreed about including “safe passage” visas. These visas would have allowed would-be asylum seekers to apply for a special visa permitting them to enter a precise Member State to request protection. The 2014 proposal to amend the visa code was directed on economic matters, specifically targeting tourists.

The Commission abandoned the 2014 proposal and submitted a revised visa code proposal in March 2018. The Commission’s 2018 communication on visa policy gives an overview of the aims of the new proposal. This time the focus is on security and it includes easier procedures for travellers with a good record. The main changes are the following:

· The possibility to submit a visa application 6 months in advance instead of 3 months today.

· Multiple entry visas are now valid for up to 5 years for frequent travellers with no record of overstaying or fraud.

· The visa fee is now increased from 60€ to 80€ in order to support the costs of the different security screenings implemented by the EU.

The last alteration brought forth by the new proposal takes the form of a “punishment” for third countries that do not collaborate with the EU on readmission. In practice, non-cooperation can lead to higher visa fees (up to 160€), requests for more documents, and a slower procedure if EU threats to sanction these countries for non-cooperation are not enough. This last alteration gives the EU the possibility to use Schengen visas as a bargaining tool with third countries on the contentious question of the readmission of irregular migrants (migrants who enter irregularly the EU territory or who enter regularly but overstay their visas). In order to see whether a third country will benefit from tougher visa rules, the Commission will systematically evaluate third countries´ level of cooperation on return.

The use of conditionality on migration issues is not new. Since the early 1990’s, the EU uses the “standard” conditionality in its relations with third countries. In this case, the EU can use conditionality (often negative conditionality) to push third countries to follow and implement policies that are favourable to the EU and which often include the fight against irregular migration.

The amendments to the Visa Code are an opportunity to restructure the common EU visa policy, which also includes the update of the Visa Information System (VIS) as well as the creation of the Entry/Exit System (EES) and the European Travel Information Authorisation System (ETIAS). The new Schengen visa rules will now have to be officially adopted by the Council. Afterwards the approved text will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and will come into force 6 months later. Member States will have 24 months to transpose the new rules into national law.

Author: Dr Fanny Tittel-Mosser

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