Soren Liborius, press secretary of the European Union Delegation in Russia, confirmed in a recent interview that the Schengen Visa Information System (VIS) will be launched in Russia on September 14, 2015. VIS allows Schengen States to exchange visa data and connects consulates in non-EU countries and all external border crossing points of Schengen States; it is used to process traveler data and decisions related to short-stay visas to visit, or transit through, the Schengen Area. VIS has been successfully operating in a number of regions ranging from North Africa and the Middle East to across the pond in the Americas since as early as 2011.
The move to bring Russia into the fold has been surrounded by some controversy as Russian applicants for Schengen visas will be required to submit to fingerprinting. Some have questioned whether such requirement is politically motivated, linking it to the ongoing political struggles and attendant sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union. However, Liborius has denied such allegations and insists that the biometrics requirement is purely technical.
Biometrics data will be stored in VIS for a period of five years. Thus, Russian applicants will only need to be fingerprinted once during that period while submitting their documents. Children under the age of twelve would be exempt from the requirement entirely.
Liborius also added that they do not predict much of an adverse impact on the number of Russian citizens visiting the Schengen Area as a result of the requirement, citing the fact that the system is in force in many countries and has as its primary objective the simplification of the visa issuance process. This development comes during a time when many countries are modernizing their visa processing and systems, often storing personal identifying data.