From Monday, April 5, a new code comes into effect
for short stay visas for the 22 European Union and three non-EU Schengen states. Brussels says it will make getting an EU visa faster, streamling the legal issuing conditions.
A Georgian citizen in Brussels as a trainee, Tatia Julakidze, said: “My last experience to acquire a Belgian visa, it took me — the whole procedure to gather the documents, to apply for a visa — it took me altogether three months, which is a very long time.”
A short stay is defined as not more than 90 days in any 180 days period. The Schengen countries provide for passport control-free travel across their internal borders.
A European Commission spokesman outlined some of the constraints on issuing countries: “We are introducing, for the first time, clear deadlines for the request and the final answer. In order to ensure that member states apply similar processing times, the visa code introduces a maximum deadline of two weeks for obtaining an appointment for launching the application, and a maximum of 15 calendar days for member states to take a final decision on the application.”
If a visa is refused, the applicant must be told why (the code sets out a standard list of reasons), and he or she has the right to appeal a negative decision.
More than ten million Schengen visas were issued in 2008. The top issuers were Germany, France and Italy. Among the central and eastern EU members, the Czechs and Poles came first.
Visa policy within the EU continues to evolve, including a common database under developments, and biometric requirement, with particular attention to security and preventing visa fraud.