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EU unveils plan for digital Schengen visas in push to ease travel document applications

EU unveils plan for digital Schengen visas in push to ease travel document applications
 

Governments around the world are attempting to make it easier for people to acquire travel documents like visas and passports. A new system to digitize Schengen visas is being prepared in Europe, while service providers are gearing up for more competition, and a new passport processing office is opening in Pakistan.

The European Commission has made a proposal which seeks to introduce a fully digital visa system by moving applications for Schengen visas completely online in a move that will drastically reduce hassles currently witnessed with Europe travels, Euronews reports.

The process will require the collection of biometrics for first-time applicants.

According to the Commission, the new system, expected in the next couple of years, will replace the current analogue visa stickers with digital ones, and will render the visa application process for millions of potential visitors to Europe smoother and more convenient.

This plan has been agreed upon by negotiators from the European Parliament and the European Council, but it will have to be formally adopted by both institutions before it comes into force, per European Interest, a publication focusing on European affairs.

The Schengen visa allows access to 26 countries in Europe for tourism and business for a period of 90 days. Holders of Canadian, United States, British and Australian passports are among those who do not require this visa to enter Europe for business and tourism purposes.

The digital visa plan, according to EU officials, is to reduce the inconveniences, cost and time spent by applicants to complete the physical visa obtention process. It will also end the confusion which hitherto existed in the application process especially in cases where an applicant intends to visit more than one European country in a single trip.

“Half of those coming to the EU with a Schengen visa consider the visa application burdensome, one third have to travel long distances to ask for a visa. It is high time that the EU provides a quick, safe and web-based EU visa application platform for the citizens of the 102 third countries that require short term visa to travel to the EU,” said Margaritis Schinas, a European Commission Vice President, quoted by Euronews.

The news comes as the EU Parliament has voted to approve the AI Act.

BLS International seeks more visa contracts

In a related-visa story, consular services provider BLS International says it is looking forward to more visa services contracts as part of its plan to compete with major players in the domain worth around $2 billion, like VSF Global.

The firm said it recently concluded many deals for digital visas in at least 17 countries as the need to make visa services more competitive increases, Mint writes. The company’s Joint Managing Director Shikhar Aggarwal says governments are bringing in more suppliers to make visa services more competitive.

However, the company has faced criticism from some quarters over poor visa services related to time management and cost. BLS International also has a contract with the Italian embassy in Senegal for visa services in six countries, starting next month, the outlet reveals.

This comes as BLS is said to have seen a rise in its net profit by 84 percent this year, beating the figures of last year. One contribution to that increase comes from a 15 percent rise in ancillary services like mobile biometrics capture for visas in India.

Passport processing facility in Islamabad

Meanwhile, a biometric passport processing office has been inaugurated in the Pakistani capital Islamabad to serve the federal capital territory.

Dunya News quotes Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah as explaining that the passport processing counters will be opened in 30 more cities in the country. It is meant to provide secure passports and reduce the incidents of identity fraud.

The official said the facilities will enable citizens to renew their passports without having to visit passport offices for the service. The facilities will manage biometric data, digital signatures and encryption, according to Dunya News.

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