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Last month, the European Commission invited GBTA to share our views on the risks and opportunities involved with digitalizing EU visas. This is part of the EU’s effort to modernize its visa policy and overcome challenges for both public authorities and travelers.
GBTA welcomed this opportunity to provide input into the European Commission’s work and strongly supports the initiative. The EU should leverage new digital technologies to facilitate travel to the Schengen area – while upholding the highest safety standards.
Digitalizing the EU visa process can reduce what is currently a long visa application processing time by enabling business travelers to file their applications online and avoid having to make a personal appearance at consular services. A digital process would allow applicants to upload the required documents electronically, including their passport and picture. The e-visa would then be issued in an electronic form and sent by email to applicants creating a much more streamlined approach.
Many countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India have already successfully digitalized their visa application processes. GBTA suggests that the European Commission set-up an exchange of “best practices” with those countries to facilitate the implementation of EU-wide e-visas.
To ensure a smooth transition, GBTA highlighted that the EU should address the digital divide in Europe and ensure that a harmonized digital procedure is implemented across all EU Member States. It will be critical to protect data integrity and privacy and ensure that public authorities safeguard their systems against data breaches and cyberattacks.
GBTA remains convinced that the benefits of digitalizing visas outweigh the potential concerns – and calls on the European Commission to support Member States when rolling-out new digital capabilities.
GBTA is committed to working hand-in-hand with the European Commission to ensure that the digitalization of visas and visa processing becomes a reality, and making sure that the EU’s visa policy takes into account business travelers’ interests.