The European Commission has urged the Schengen Member States to resume visa operations abroad as soon as possible.
Schengen Visa Info reports the commission recommended that Member States should start allowing third-country nationals to enter the European Union starting from 1 July, gradually and partially, based on the epidemiological situation in each third-country.
The commission added that visa operations abroad should resume so that nationals who are required to apply for a Schengen Visa to travel to the EU, will be able to submit their applications.
“As soon as the travel restrictions at the EU’s external borders will gradually start to be lifted, the resumption of visa operations should be synchronised with these developments,” the European Commission’s recommendations read.
Despite its recommendations for the resuming of visa operation, the commission is aware that the demand for visas will most likely remain significantly below usual levels until the end of the year, even in third-countries where volumes are traditionally high.
According to Schengen Visa Info, the key points of the commission’s recommendations are as follows:
- As soon as travel restrictions are lifted for a certain country, all Member States should restart visa operations in that particular country.
- Minimum visa services should remain accessible for persons classified as “essential travellers”, even if general travel restrictions remain in place.
- In case of limited visa processing capacity, priority should be given to applications from essential travellers and key workers.
- Wherever possible, Member States should commit to resume operations simultaneously in each location and resume full representation of other Member States in visa matters, where applicable.
- The Member States must continue to apply the general rules of the Visa Code when processing applications and granting visas.
- Health checks for visa application are ineffective and should not be imposed, as the applications take place at least 15 days before the intended trip, and can be up to six months before (nine months for seafarers).
In addition, the commission recommends to the Member States to impose hygiene measures for both the staff and for applicants, including physical distancing, mandatory use of face masks and the installation of disinfectant stations.
It also advises Member States to make prior appointment compulsory and to limit physical interaction as much as possible.