Council adopts online visa plan
On 13 November 2023, the European Council adopted new rules allowing people who plan to travel to the Schengen area to apply online for a visa.
The two regulations adopted will create an EU visa application platform. With a few exceptions, applications for Schengen visas will be made through that platform. On the platform, visa applicants will be able to enter all the relevant data, upload electronic copies of their travel documents and supporting documents, and pay their visa fees.
This is intended to render in-person appearance at the consulate redundant. In-person appearance will only be necessary for first-time applicants, people whose biometric data are no longer valid and people with a new travel document.
When a person intends to visit several Schengen countries, the platform will automatically determine which one of them 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.
The current visa sticker will be replaced with a cryptographically signed barcode.
The two regulations will enter into force 20 days after they are published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
Stamp 4 changes
Effective 30 November 2023, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) will cease taking applications for Stamp 4 support letters. This will impact Critical Skills Employment Permit holders, Researchers on a Hosting Agreement, and NCHD Multi-Site General Employment Permit holders wishing to transfer to a Stamp 4 Immigration permission.
However, all applications received by DETE prior to 30 November 2023 will continue to be processed.
The Registration Office, Immigration Services will continue to accept these support letters for applications to register a Stamp 4 residence permission.
Individuals who did not apply to DETE for a support letter prior to 30 November 2023 will be required to provide The Registration Office, Immigration Services the following evidence in support of applications to register a Stamp 4 residence permission:
- A copy of the biometric page of their current valid passport(s).
- A copy of the front and back of their current Irish Residence Permit (IRP) card.
- Copies of the relevant Employment Permit or Hosting Agreement issued by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
- A copy of the most recent payslip.
- A letter from the employer, dated within the last three months, confirming the job title, location of employment, and dates of employment.
- Copies of ‘Employment Detail Summaries’ issued for each year of employment covering the duration of the Employment Permit, available here.
Applicants must have been registered and in permission for a total of 24 months under a Stamp 1 on the basis of a Critical Skills Employment Permit and/or Hosting Agreement, or under Stamp 1H as a Non-Consultant Hospital Doctor on the basis of a Multi-Site General Employment Permit. Applications for renewal of permission are accepted up to 12 weeks before expiry to allow sufficient time for processing.
Electronic Travel Authorisation opens for Qatari nationals
Effective 15 November 2023, Qatari nationals require an electronic travel authorisation (ETA) to travel to the United Kingdom.
ETA applications have been open to Qatari nationals since 25 October 2023.
Nationals of the remaining Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates) and Jordan will need an ETA if they’re visiting the UK from 22 February 2024, and can apply for their ETA from 1 February 2024. It will be expanded worldwide throughout 2024.
The move to the ETA scheme means that the visa requirement will be removed for nationals from GCC states and Jordan.
The ETA, which allows multiple entry to the UK over a two-year period, applies to those visiting or transiting through the UK who do not need a visa for short stays, or who do not currently hold another UK visa. Currently, Gulf nationals pay £30 per visit to the UK under the current Electronic Visa Wavier (EVW) scheme and Jordanian nationals £100 for a visit visa.
When applying for an ETA, applicants need to provide biographic and biometric information, and answer questions on suitability and criminality. Once individuals have successfully applied, their ETA is digitally linked to their passport.
While the standard processing time for an application is three working days, government sources claim that the majority of applications so far have been decided within hours.