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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.
At the end of 2017, the European Commission launched a process to review the EU’s visa policy and adapt it to today’s challenges. In this context, the European Commission published its proposal to review the EU Visa Code this month meant to modernize and streamline the common European visa rules.
GBTA believes in sound and smart visa policies and earlier this year, GBTA submitted its position to the European Commission providing recommendations on the revision of the EU’s visa policy. GBTA strongly believes that the EU should ambitiously work towards achieving efficient visa policies that facilitate travel while upholding safety concerns. Business travel is the world’s largest employer and drives the success of every other industry. In this context, smart and balanced visa policies are essential to enable vetted business travelers to access European markets, thereby contributing to economic development and job creation.
GBTA is very pleased to see that most of its recommendations were taken into account in the recent Visa Code legislative proposal.
We are pleased to see that the European Commission is suggesting streamlining complex procedural requirements to obtain a Schengen visa. We are also pleased to see that Multiple Entry Visas’ procedures will be harmonized across the EU, as this will avoid certain EU countries from being more restrictive than others in delivering this specific type of visa.
However, we are concerned about the European Commission’s proposed increase of the visa application fees from €60 to €80. We call upon EU institutions to ensure fees are proportionate and enable the system to be self-sufficient financially, to avoid imposing additional tax burden on business travelers.
In our position paper, we had also called for online applications and the delivery of digital visas to be introduced as soon as possible, to simplify and accelerate the process for business travelers, while at the same time relieving consulates from administrative burden. We welcome the European Commission’s willingness to start discussions with the European Parliament and EU countries on this issue and hope these discussions will be quickly turned into concrete legislative outcomes.
GBTA remains ready to work hand-in-hand with European policymakers during the legislative process to ensure that its proposal to modernize the EU’s Visa Policy continues to take business travelers interests into account.