New EU rules on short-stay visas apply worldwide from 2 February 2020. They make it easier for legitimate travellers to apply for a visa to come to Europe, facilitating tourism, trade and business, while providing more resources for countering irregular migration risks and threats to internal security.
Which non-EU countries do the new rules apply to?
The changes apply to travellers from all countries which need visas to travel to the EU. Currently, citizens from 105 non-EU countries or entities are required to have a visa (full list available online). Nothing changes for countries benefitting from visa-free travel to the EU because the new rules do not apply to their citizens.
Which destination countries are covered by the update?
The rules cover short-stay visas for the 22 EU countries that are part of the Schengen area (Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden), as well as for four associated countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.A uniform short-stay visa issued by one of these countries covers travel throughout the 26 Schengen countries for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
Why change the EU visa rules now?
The European Parliament and the Council agreed the changes in June 2019.
The tourism and travel industry plays a key role in the European economy. EU Member States are among the world’s leading tourist destinations – the number of visa applications processed has increased considerably over the last 9 years and continues to expand. Since 2009, the number of applications for EU visas has risen by 57% – from 10.2 million to over 16 million in 2018. At the same time, visa application procedures have not changed since 2010 and there was a need to make them less cumbersome, while maintaining the same level of security and control.
Visa fees have not been adapted since 2006 and a €60 fee no longer covers the costs of processing applications, in particular due to inflation.
Finally, by creating a link between visa procedures and cooperation on readmission, the revision gives the EU new tools for a dialogue with partner countries about migration. This possibility is part of the EU’s ongoing efforts in favour of a comprehensive and effective migration policy.
What are the main benefits for travellers?
With the new rules, travellers now benefit from a simpler and more user-friendly visa application procedure:
Visa applications can be submitted up to 6 months before the intended travel (9 months for seafarers), instead of 3 months previously, allowing travellers to better plan their trips;
Multiple-entry visas with long validity (from 1 to 5 years) are now easier to obtain, saving frequent travellers time and money, as they will have to apply for a new visa less often;
In most cases, an application can be submitted directly in the traveller’s country of residence, and where possible filled in and signed electronically (only hard copies were accepted until now), which will also save travellers time, money and hassle.
What are the new rules for issuing multiple-entry visas?
Frequent travellers with a positive visa history are to be granted multiple-entry visa with a gradually increasing validity period from 1 year to a maximum of 5 years.
Travellers’ fulfilment of entry conditions will be thoroughly and repeatedly verified in all cases, and only persons with a positive visa track record will be issued multiple-entry visas with a long validity.
Multiple-entry visas allow the holder to travel repeatedly to the EU during the period of validity of the visa.
How long will it take for the visa application to be processed?
The maximum time for visa applications to be processed remains unchanged at 15 days. The processing time may be longer only in individual cases, for instance where further scrutiny of the application is needed, and take up to maximum 45 days.
With which consulate should applicants lodge their visa application?
The rules remain the same. Applicants must lodge their application at the consulate of the country they intend to visit. Applicants planning to visit several Schengen states must apply at the consulate of the country where they will spend the longest period. Applicants planning on visiting several Schengen states for equal lengths of stay must apply at the consulate of the country whose external borders they will cross first when entering the Schengen area.In case the Schengen state of destination has no consulate in the country where the applicant resides, the applicant should check whether it is represented by another consulate.
Do visa applicants have to submit their application in person at a consulate?
In most cases, visa applications can be submitted in the applicant’s country of residence (either at a consulate or at the premises of an external service provider) and, where possible, the application form can be filled in and signed electronically. Under the new rules, applicants have to appear in person only when fingerprints are to be collected (i.e. every 59 months).
Can the application be submitted via an external service provider?
Most Member States use external service providers to collect visa applications and supporting documents. The large network of “visa application centres” means that applicants do not usually have to travel too far to lodge their application. Member States remain fully responsible for processing and deciding on visa applications.
What are the requirements for applying for a short stay visa?
The rules have not changed. In order to apply for a short stay visa to the EU, applicants must present:
A filled in and signed visa application form;
A passport issued in the last 10 years and valid for at least 3 months after the end of the stay;
An identity photograph;
Proof of possession of adequate and valid travel medical insurance;
Supporting documents relating to the purpose of the stay, evidence of means of support during the stay and accommodation.
Applicants must also pay the visa fee and, where applicable, have their fingerprints collected.
Do visa applicants need a travel medical insurance when travelling to the EU?
Yes, visa applicants must present a valid travel medical insurance when applying for a visa, as it was already the case under the previous rules.
What is the amount of the visa fee? What will the increased visa fee be used for?
The visa fee increases from €60 to €80. This increase is the first one since 2006 and it brings the fee in line with the level where it would be today if it had been aligned to the general EU-wide inflation rate since 2006.
The €60 fee no longer adequately covered the administrative costs (such as staffing, premises and equipment) for offering adequate service to the constantly growing numbers of applications. The increase in the visa fee will ensure there are sufficient financial resources to maintain a wide consular coverage worldwide and reinforce consular staff, speed up the application process and provide better quality service for travellers, upgrade IT equipment and software, and improve the capacity to detect potential security and irregular migration risks.
Importantly, for regular travellers, the fee increase will be partly offset by the new rules on long-validity visas: these travellers may actually save money under the new provisions, since they have to apply for visas less often.
Will the visa fee also increase for countries benefiting from lower fees under Visa Facilitation Agreements?
No. The increase of the general visa fee has no impact on the lower visa fee (€35) set in the Visa Facilitation Agreements concluded between the EU and a number of third countries, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia.
How does the revised visa fee compare to the fees charged by other countries?
By international standards, the €80 visa fee remains low. As a comparison, applying for a tourist visa to the United States costs €143 and €126 for China. Travellers to Australia have to pay €90 for their visa, while those going to New Zealand will be charged €146. A visa to Canada costs €68, to India €95, and to the UK €112 (January 2020).
Are there any visa fee waivers and reductions?
Yes, the visa fee is still waived for children below 6 years old, as was already the case under the previous rules. The visa fee for minors between the age of 6 and 12 years remains half of the general fee, and thus increases by €5 (to €40). In addition, it is now possible for Member States to waive the visa fee for minors between the age of 6 and 18 years.
How will the cooperation on readmission be linked to EU visa policy?
Over the past years, the EU has been stepping up activities to support Member States in returning people who have no right to stay in Europe. Even though readmission of own nationals is an obligation under international law, Member States have experienced difficulties in returning irregular migrants.
The revised visa rules introduce a new mechanism linking visa policy and cooperation on readmission. This will bring an important element into the EU’s discussions with partner countries.
Under the new rules, the Commission will conduct a regular assessment of how non-EU countries cooperate on readmission, taking into account indicators such as:
The number of return decisions issued to citizens of a given non-EU country;
The number of actual returns as a percentage of the number of return decisions issued;
The number of readmission requests accepted by the non-EU country as a percentage of the number of requests submitted to it; and
The level of practical cooperation in the different stages of the return procedure, including as regards the assistance provided in the identification of persons irregularly staying in the EU and the timely issuance of travel documents.
Member States which encounter substantial and persistent readmission problems with a given non-EU country may also notify the Commission of such a situation. In such cases, the Commission must assess the notification within one month.
On this basis, the Commission, together with Member States, can establish a more restrictive and temporary implementation of certain provisions of the Visa Code for the processing of visa applications from nationals of the country in question, such as the processing time, the length of validity of visas, the level of the visa fee and the fee waivers.
If a third country cooperates sufficiently on readmission, and taking account of the Union’s overall relations with the third country concerned, the Commission may also propose a more generous implementation of certain provisions of the Visa Code (lower visa fee, quicker processing times and multiple-entry visas with longer validity to be agreed upon by Member States in the Council).
Can nationals of non-EU countries which do not cooperate on readmission still apply for and obtain a visa to travel to the EU?
More restrictive implementation of certain procedural rules and the general rules on the issuing of multiple-entry visas will not call into question applicants’ basic right to submit an application for a visa or to be granted a visa.
When the Commission, together with the Member States, decides that the mechanism should be triggered, the restrictive implementation of certain rules will be adapted to the particular situation in each non EU-country. This could have an impact on the processing time, the length of validity of the visa to be issued, the level of the visa fee to be charged and the fee waivers.
Will the new rules affect the UK after the end of the transition period?
No. In 2019, the Visa Regulation was amended to grant UK nationals visa-free travel to the EU after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. This means that UK nationals will remain visa-free when travelling to the EU for short stays, so the revised visa rules will not apply to them.
Youth Employment Support: a bridge to jobs for the next generation
European Commission is taking action to give young people all possible opportunities to develop their full potential to shape the future of the EU, and thrive in the green and digital transitions. The coronavirus pandemic has emphasised the often difficult start many young people face in the labour market. We need to act fast. Now is the time to direct our attention towards the next generation.
The Commission is using this opportunity to ingrain the green and digital transitions in the DNA of the EU’s youth and employment policies. With NextGenerationEU and the future EU budget, the Commission already proposed significant EU financing opportunities for youth employment. It is now for the Member States to prioritise these investments. At least €22 billion should be spent on youth employment support.
Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, Valdis Dombrovskis, said: “It is more important than ever that we help the next generation of Europeans to thrive and get on the jobs ladder, especially at this time of crisis. We are proposing clear and specific ways forward for our young people to get the professional chances that they deserve. Today’s proposals also set out what EU funding is available to support Member States in boosting youth employment. By investing in the youth of today, we will help to create a competitive, resilient and inclusive labour market for tomorrow.”
Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said: “Now is the time to carry out much-needed reforms of the support measures we offer to young people. We owe it to the millions of graduates and those taking their early steps on the labour market to mobilise all the support we can. Our youth deserve the very best opportunities possible to develop their full potential.”
Youth Employment Support: a bridge to jobs for the next generation
The Youth Employment Support package is built around four strands that together provide a bridge to jobs for the next generation:
- The EU created the Youth Guarantee in 2013 and has since built bridges to the labour market for some 24 million young people. The Commission’s proposal for a Council Recommendation on a Bridge to Jobs reinforces theYouth Guarantee and steps up the outreach to vulnerable young people across the EU, now covering people aged 15 – 29. The Recommendation keeps the pledge that if you sign up to the Youth Guarantee, you will receive an offer of employment, education, apprenticeship or training within four months. Bridge to Jobs will be more inclusive to avoid any forms of discrimination, with a wider outreach to more vulnerable groups, such as youth of racial and ethnic minorities, young people with disabilities, or young people living in some rural, remote or disadvantaged urban areas. It will link in with the needs of companies, providing the skills required – in particular those for the green and digital transitions – and short preparatory courses; and it will provide tailored counselling, guidance and mentoring.
- The Commission’s proposal for a Council Recommendation on vocational education and training aims to make systems more modern, attractive, flexible and fit for the digital and green economy. More agile, learner-centred vocational education and training will prepare young people for their first jobs and gives more adults opportunities to enhance or change their careers. It will help vocational education and training providers to become centres of vocational excellence, while supporting diversity and inclusiveness.
- A renewed impetus for apprenticeships will benefit both employers and young people, adding a skilled labour force to a wide range of sectors. The European Alliance for Apprenticeships has made available more than 900,000 opportunities. The renewed Alliance will promote national coalitions, support SMEs and reinforce the involvement of social partners: trade unions and employers’ organisations. The goal is to sustain the apprenticeship offers now, as apprentices we train now will be highly skilled workers in a few years’ time.
- Additional measures to support youth employment include employment and start-up incentives in the short term, and capacity building, young entrepreneur networks and inter-company training centres in the medium term.
The Commission urges Member States to step up youth employment support by making use of the significant funding available under NextGenerationEU and the future EU budget. For example, the EU can help fund:
- Start-up grants and loans for young entrepreneurs, mentoring schemes and business incubators
- Bonuses for SMEs hiring apprentices
- Training sessions to acquire new skills needed on the labour market
- Capacity-building of public employment services
- Career management training in formal education
- Investments in digital learning infrastructure and technology
During the aftermath of the global 2008 financial crisis, youth unemployment went up from 16.0% in 2008 to a peak of 24.4% in 2013. The figures went down since, with record lows of 14.9%, just before the pandemic hit. Nevertheless, youth unemployment has always remained more than twice as high as general unemployment. The latest figures show that youth unemployment stood at 15.4% across the EU in April 2020. Many fear that a spike is just in front of us.
Significant EU funding is available for Member States to implement reforms spearheaded by the initiatives presented today. The European Social Fund Plus will be a key EU financial resource to support the implementation of the youth employment support measures. As part of the Recovery Plan for Europe, the Recovery and Resilience Facility and REACT-EU will provide additional financial support for youth employment.
Most EU Member States not on track to reduce air pollution by 2030
The assessment of Member States’ first programmes of measures to control air emissions finds that the implementation of the new European clean air rules needs improvement. Member States need to step up efforts across all sectors to make sure their citizens can breathe clean air, preventing respiratory diseases and premature death caused by breathing polluted air.
EU Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Oceans Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “This report sends a clear message. All across Europe, too many citizens are still at risk from the air they breathe. We need more effective measures to cut pollution in numerous Member States and to tackle air emissions across sectors, including agriculture, transport and energy. There has never been a better time to make these changes: investing in cleaner air means investing in citizens’ health, in our climate, and it’s the kick-start our economy needs. That’s the thinking behind the European Green Deal, and it’s the logic the environment needs.”
According to the first Commission report to assess the implementation of the National Emission reduction Commitments Directive (NEC Directive) published today, most Member States are at risk of not complying with their 2020 or 2030 emission reduction commitments. While some Member States show good practices that should be inspiring for others, the Report demonstrates the need for additional measures in order to reduce air pollution. The Commission will continue to monitor and support national efforts in this regard, through financial and non-financial tools. Efforts are especially needed in agriculture to reduce ammonia emissions, which is the most common and severe implementation challenge across the EU.
Effective implementation of clean air legislation forms an essential contribution to ‘a zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment’ announced by the Commission in the European Green Deal and related initiatives. Synergies with climate and energy policies need to be enhanced and further assessed, also in line with the European Green Deal approach.
Alongside this implementation report, the Commission has also released today its consultants’ analysis of each Member State National Air Pollution Control Programme and emission projections, as well as an EU-wide horizontal report bringing together this information.
The National Emission reduction Commitments Directive, which entered into force on 31 December 2016, is the main legislative instrument to achieve the 2030 objectives of the Clean Air Programme. When fully implemented, the Directive would reduce by almost 50% the negative health impacts of air pollution by 2030, and bring substantial benefits for the environment and climate.
The Directive sets national emission reduction commitments for the periods 2020-29 and more ambitious ones for 2030-onwards for five important air pollutants: nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC), sulphur dioxide (SO2), ammonia (NH3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5).
Compliance with the 2020 emissions reduction commitments will be checked in 2022, when the emission inventories for 2020 become available.
The NEC implementation report will be complemented later this year by the Second Clean Air Outlook which will present up-to-date modelling results on the extent to which the EU and its Member States are on track to meet their clean air objectives for 2030 and later.
Green Deal: Commission launch the European Just Transition Platform
On Monday 29 June, the Just Transition Platform (JTP) will be launched to help Member States to draw up their territorial Just Transition Plans and access funding from the over €150 billion Just Transition Mechanism. This online Platform will provide technical and advisory support for public and private stakeholders in coal and other carbon-intensive regions, with easy access to information on funding opportunities and sources of technical assistance.
The Platform will ensure that the €40 billion (in 2018 constant prices) proposed under the Just Transition Fund is channelled to the right projects and that no region is left behind. It will also support access to the dedicated scheme under InvestEU and the public sector loan facility, which together with the Just Transition Fund form the three pillars of the Just Transition Mechanism. The platform will provide:
- Technical and advisory support to Member States and regions, including on the operationalisation of the territorial Just Transition Plans and the building of pipelines of projects for the Just Transition Mechanism;
- A web-based single access point, including the possibility to contact the Commission with technical and administrative questions related to just transition;
- Sharing of information, experience and knowledge for fossil fuel and carbon-intensive regions, with dedicated project and expert databases;
- A forum for dialogue on just transition involving local and national stakeholders, social partners, public authorities and EU institutions.
Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, and Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, will launch the Just Transition Platform during an online event starting on Monday 29 June at 09:30.
This will kick-start a week of online events dedicated to coal, lignite, peat and oil shale regions as well as carbon-intensive regions, organised under the Coal Regions Virtual Week and a Carbon-Intensive Regions Seminar. These events will inform stakeholders of the latest EU policy developments and provide an opportunity for good practices sharing.
The Platform will host a projects and experts database towards the end of 2020.
Members of the College said:
Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said: “Our Green Deal ambition is to demonstrate a new model for inclusive transformation based on a just transition. As we rebuild our economies and societies, we owe it to our children and grandchildren to grasp the opportunity to build a more sustainable future. With the Just Transition Platform we can start making this a reality”
Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said: “The Just Transition Platform is a firm step towards a climate-neutral Europe. I encourage authorities from all Member States to make full use of it when developing and implementing territorial just transition plans that promote economic renewal, new skills and new job opportunities. I am determined that no one is left behind and that all regions and all Europeans are able to tap the benefits of a greener, fairer more digital future.”
Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, said: “The Just Transition Platform will provide tailor-made support to regions that will be most affected by the green transition. It will bring together expertise from all relevant Commission services to make sure that fossil fuel and carbon intensive regions have all the information, tools and assistance they need to transform their economies in a fair way.”
The Just Transition Mechanism (JTM) is part of the European Green Deal effort to create a climate-neutral economy in Europe by 2050. The Mechanism will seek to overcome the economic and social costs of the climate transition in the most vulnerable coal and carbon-intensive regions. The Mechanism consists of three pillars of financing: the Just Transition Fund, proposed on 14 January 2020 and strengthened by the 27 May Recovery Package; a dedicated just transition scheme under InvestEU; and a public sector loan facility. The three pillars are expected to mobilise more than €150 billion of investments in the EU regions most vulnerable to the climate transition over the period 2021-2027.
Announced with the European Green Deal Investment Plan, the Just Transition Platform builds on and expands the work of the Initiative for Coal Regions in Transition, and is part of the Just Transition Mechanism. It will have three work streams: coordinated technical assistance from the European Commission and the EIB group, a web-based single access point and helpdesk, and events promoting stakeholder involvement and the exchange of best practices.
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