The Council of the EU and the European Parliament have provisionally agreed on rules to digitalise the visa procedure, introducing online visa applications and replacing the current visa sticker with a digital visa.
The agreement still needs to be approved by member states before the adoption process in the Council and the European Parliament can start. The agreement allows a transition period of 7 years for member State to join the platform.
The rules, once adopted, will create an EU visa application platform. With a few exceptions, applications for Schengen visas will be submitted through this platform, which will forward them to the relevant national visa systems. Via a secure account on this platform, visa applicants will be able to enter all required data, upload electronic copies of their supporting documents and pay their visa fees. They will also be notified of the decisions concerning their visa. In-person appearance at the consulate will in principle only be necessary for first-time applicants, persons whose biometric data are no longer valid and those with a new travel document.
The platform will also include up-to-date information on Schengen short-stay visas, as well as all necessary information regarding the requirements and procedures (such as supporting documents, visa fee or the need for an appointment to collect biometric identifiers). A chatbot feature is also envisaged.
When a person intends to visit several Schengen countries, the online platform will automatically determine which country is responsible for examining the application on the basis of the duration of stay. However, the applicant will also have the possibility to indicate whether the application needs to be processed by a specific member state according to the purpose of travel.
Under the proposed new rules, visas will be issued in digital format, as a 2D barcode, cryptographically signed. The digital visa will also apply to long-stay visas and will also be issued by EU countries not yet fully applying the Schengen rules (Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania).
On 14 June 2023, Switzerland and the United Kingdom signed a new agreement recognising professional qualifications in both countries.
Under the agreement, UK-qualified professionals in regulated sectors who wish to have their qualifications recognised in Switzerland will have a reliable and clear system to do so; and vice versa.
The agreement, which follows the launch of negotiations last month in Bern on a new UK-Switzerland free trade agreement, will enter into force at the start of 2025.