On 2 February 2020 new rules for Schengen short stay visas came into force for the 26 European states which apply the common visa rules and the 104 countries whose nationals must obtain these visas before traveling to the EU Schengen states. These rules are immediately applicable in all the Schengen states.
The first change is a hike in visa fees: adults now pay €80 (up by €20) and children €40 (an increase of €5) as a visa fee. This is accompanied by an increase in fees chargeable by external service providers to no more than €80 per application but there is an exception for external service providers to increase their fees to €120 if €80 is insufficient for them to provide a full service
There is no change in fees for nationals of countries which have visa facilitation agreements with the Schengen states. For them the fee remains €35 (the largest country with such an agreement is Russia).
The most attractive type of Schengen visa is a multi-annual, multi-entry one. These visas allow their holders to enter the Schengen area without having to get a new visa for each visit. For some time, the European Commission has been encouraging Schengen states to issue more multiple-entry visas and this is now reflected in the new rules. So long as the applicant fulfils the EU Border Code rules for entry (which are: holding a valid travel document, justifying the purpose of the visit, not being subject to a Schengen Information System alert and not being a threat to public policy), the new rules require states to issue multiple-entry visas in accordance with the following criteria:
- For a validity period of one year: the applicant has obtained and lawfully used three visas within the previous two years;
- For a validity period of two years: the applicant has obtained and lawfully used a previous multiple-entry visa valid for one year within the previous two years;
- For a validity period of five years: the applicant had obtained and lawfully used a previous multiple-entry visa valid for two years within the previous three years.
These new rules should increase substantially the issuance of multiple-entry visas and diminish the visa friction which frequent travellers (including tourists) encounter in planning their travels.
Two other issues which have been problematic for visa nationals travelling to the Schengen area have also been dealt with in the new rules. First, Schengen states are now required to have a presence in all third countries either through their consulates, representation agreements (or other similar cooperation) with the consulates of other Schengen countries or cooperation with external service providers. This obligation means that no matter where in the world the applicant is, he or she should have access to the Schengen visa procedure in his or her country. Secondly, travel medical insurance is still mandatory but for multiple-entry visa holders, they only need to show they have this insurance to cover their first period of intended visit. The travel medical insurance has to cover costs up to €30,000, be applicable in all Schengen states and cover all incidental costs including repatriation. At the moment, only two companies provide the necessary medical insurance certificate. This means that travellers who need a Schengen visa do not have much choice about what insurance they will have to purchase. At least holders of multiple-entry visas will only need to have the certificate for their first entry.
Most contentious during the negotiation of the new rules has been the linking of Schengen visa issuance with the cooperation of authorities of the state of nationality of the applicant in assisting Schengen states to expel their fellow citizens. The idea which has been introduced here is that the Commission will examine regularly (at least annually) whether states on the Schengen black list are cooperating with Schengen states regarding the expulsion of their citizens. If they are, the Schengen visa fee for their nationals can be reduced to €60. This is a fairly bizarre form of linkage as the assumption is that people applying for visas should be privileged or punished for their state authorities’ approach to expulsion of fellow citizens from Schengen states. It remains to be seen how these new provisions will be implemented in practice.