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Visa applications to become more consumer-friendly to Europe

Recognising that the majority of Schengen visa-applicants from third-countries travel to Europe for legitimate purposes, the European Parliament makes a number of proposals to make visa application…

Recognising that the majority of Schengen visa-applicants from third-countries travel to Europe for legitimate purposes, the European Parliament makes a number of proposals to make visa application procedures more consumer-friendly.



The tourism industry voiced strong concerns when the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal on a common code of visas in July 2006; while acknowledging that the proposal would bring more clarity and transparency as well as more uniform application of visa procedures across the consulate offices in third countries, the industry was concerned about new provisions that would deter many third country nationals from travelling to Europe.



Two of the most contentious points concerned the visa fee increase from 35 euro to 60 euro applicable as of 1 January 2007 as well as the obligation to apply for a visa in person to the consular office following the future requirements on the provision of biometric identifiers.



The European Parliament’s draft report by MEP Henrik Lax takes a pragmatic approach to the common visa code. Striking a better balance between the need to combat illegal immigration and criminality and the promotion of legitimate crossing of borders, such as those for tourism purposes, a number of proposal are on the table to make the visa application procedures more consumer-friendly while keeping measures in place to prevent criminal or illegal activities stepping across the borders into the Schengen area.



ECTAA welcomed the various provisions of the European Parliament’s draft report that aim at reducing the overall cost of visas, such as the reduction of visa fees to the initial level of 35 euro, or exemption of visas for children up to the age of 12. It also welcomes all provisions that facilitate visa applications, such as creating a common Schengen visa website or allowing thirdcountry nationals to submit a visa application to a consulate office of any Schengen state if the consulate office of the country being visited is not in close vicinity.



“It is inconceivable that a family of four will have to pay visa fees up to 240€ without counting medical insurance cover, travelling cost to obtain the visa, etc.”, explained ECTAA President Jan Van Steen, and continued that “while recognising the need for a proper functioning visa policy, we must not give the impression that Europe is hostile to third-country visitors who have legitimate reasons to travel to Europe, such as those for tourism and business purposes.”

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