The Commission has opened last November 2017 a Public Consultation on the application process for Schengen visas, with the aim of gathering the views of the main ‘users’ of the common visa policy: individuals, interest groups, advocacy groups, think tanks and professional. The goal of the Consultation was:
- to collect the views and concerns of all interested parties, citizens and organisations regarding the process of applying for Schengen visas
- and subsequently develop a new proposal to revise and improve the conditions and procedures for issuing short-stay visas, regulated in all Member States by the Visa Code.
The visa policy serves various objectives, and in general a visa requirement is accepted worldwide as a tool for countries (or groups of countries such as the EU) to tackle different kinds of migration and security risks. At the same time the visa policy also aims at facilitating travel to the EU for legitimate and bona fide travellers, notably by exempting nationals of countries with lower migratory or security risks from the visa requirement and by easing visa procedures wherever possible.
The public consultation was open for 10 weeks (24 November 2017 – 2 February 2018) and attracted a total of 1929 responses, of which 1849 were from individual respondents and 80 represented organisations
The consultation provided a good evidence base for improving the visa procedure and showed that there was a large consensus between stakeholders (inclusing visa applicants) on a wide variety of topics. This is most notable regarding the different practices between Member States when issuing long-validity multiple-entry visas, where the lack of harmonisation and predictability was criticised by applicants in the public consultation and by stakeholders, just as Member States and Members of the European Parliament acknowledged the need for further harmonisation.
To know more, the responses received by the Commission are now accessible online, toghether with the background papers submitted by several organizations and institutions wordwide. Among all respondents, UNIMED has also contributed to the Consultation with a background paper, available here, due to our long experience in cooperation projects across the Mediterranean and in organizing mobility of academics, administratives and students towards Europe. As part of our working routine, we offer support to our associated Universities in the process of applying and obtaining Visa for the participants to project events, conferences, training opportunities and other occasion of travel to European countries, being involved in more than 25 international cooperation projects and in institutional activities to maximize the possibilities for university staff and students from South-Mediterranean countries to benefit from the cooperation with Europe and increase their participation to the European Higher Education Area.
A summary report of the result of the Consultation is available as the Commission Staff working document was published in March 2018, reporting the impact assessment of the Visa Code which accompany the proposal to revise the Visa Code (in Annex 2). In the document, several policy options are analyzed and three preferred options selected, to tackle the three main identified problems (Insufficient financial resources, Repeated visa procedures, Return of irregular migrants).