The European Union Parliament and Council’s negotiators have reached a political agreement on the reformation of the Visa Information System in order to establish clear conditions for access to different databases and systems, as well as the necessary fundamental rights safeguards.
The reformation had been previously proposed by the Commission in May 2018, and its approval, among others, means that there will soon be more thorough background checks on applicants for visa and residence permits.
According to Rapporteur Paulo Rangel with this agreement the European Parliament is delivering to the EU citizens, asserting that this will be the most important reform since the VIS was established, which will be ready in 2023.
“Better protecting our external borders, fighting child trafficking and terrorism, reinforcing free movement and Schengen, and contributing to a more efficient return policy. However, a fundamental principle must still be respected: a bigger system means bigger safeguards,” Rapporteur Rangel says.
Commenting on the agreement, Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson noted that a modern and secure visa process is crucial to welcome legitimate travellers while keeping Europe safe.
“The upgraded Visa Information System will remove blind spots and give visa authorities and border guards access to the information they need to do their jobs properly,” Commissioner Johansson said.
At the same time, she pointed out that the revised system will contain robust data protection safeguards, particularly for protecting biometric data of children, which by doing so, the Commissioner believes will achieve a crucial balance between limiting the access to biometric data of children and fighting against child trafficking.
With the approval of the agreement, the EU intends for the future Visa Information System (VIS) Regulation to enhance internal security and improve border management through the following measures:
- All visa applications registered in the VIS will now be automatically checked against all other EU information systems for security and migration, like the Entry-Exit System which is set to become operational in 2022, the Schengen Information System and the European Criminal Records Information System on third-country citizens through the European Search Portal.
- The updated VIS database will widen its scope to include information at EU level on long-stay visas and residence permits in order to permit border guards to rapidly decide if a long-stay visa or a residence permit used to enter the Schengen area is valid.
- Copies of the applicant’s travel document will also be included in the VIS database and together with the authorisation for Frontex to have access to the VIS, will make it easier the identification and readmission of people subject to a return procedure who do not own travel documents.
- Law enforcement authorities and Europol will now have more organised access to the VIS for the prevention, detection or investigation of serious crimes as terrorist offences, in full respect of the EU’s data protection rules.
The Visa Information System (VIS) is an EU security database used by EU and national authorities to check third-country nationals who need a visa to travel to the Schengen area.