Visa Information System Being Modernized
The new rules on the modernization of the Visa Information System (VIS) came into force on August 8, 2021. They will allow for more thorough background checks on people applying for visas or residence permits, as well as better exchange of information between Member States on the holders of such documents. They are also designed to ensure full interoperability between the VIS and other EU-wide databases.
The modernized Visa Information System (VIS) database is expected to help enhance internal security and improve border management in the following ways:
- Strengthened security checks across all databases:
All visa applications stored in the VIS will now be automatically cross-checked with all data in other EU security and migration information systems via a single search portal. These systems include the Entry/Exit System (due to become operational in 2022), the Schengen Information System, and the European Criminal Records Information System in relation to third-country nationals. These mandatory cross-checks will identify applicants using multiple identities and individuals associated with a security risk or risk of irregular migration.
- Better data and information sharing:
Information on long-stay visas and residence permits is currently not available at the EU level. The modernized VIS database will contain this information in the future. This means that from now on when you apply for a permit from Venice, immigration in Hamburg will be able to see your permit in Italy. Border guards will thus be able to quickly determine whether long-stay visas or residence permits used to cross the external borders of the Schengen area are valid and in the hands of their legitimate holders. This closes a significant security gap.
- More efficient return procedures:
As of now, photocopies of the visa applicant's travel document will also be included in the VIS database. Combined with the power of Frontex teams to access the VIS, this measure will facilitate the identification and readmission of persons without travel documents against whom a return decision has been issued, thus increasing the efficiency of the EU return policy.
- Strengthened capacity to prosecute and prevent crime:
Law enforcement authorities and Europol will now have more structured access to the VIS for the purpose of preventing, detecting, or investigating terrorist offenses or other serious criminal offenses. This access will take place under strict conditions and in full respect of EU data protection rules. Access to the VIS will now also be granted to law enforcement authorities for the purpose of searching for or identifying missing or abducted persons and victims of human trafficking.
The EU is modernizing its security and border management information systems to fill information gaps and enhance internal security. The new migration and asylum package emphasized the importance of well-managed external EU borders controlled using fully interoperable IT systems in ensuring the integrity and functioning of a Schengen area without internal border controls.
The Visa Information System is an EU database that connects border guards at the EU's external borders with Member States' consulates around the world. The system was launched globally in 2015. It provides visa authorities with key information about individuals applying for Schengen short-stay visas and enables border guards to identify travelers who may pose a security risk. The rules, while fully respecting data protection rules, expand the scope of the system, by including persons holding or applying for long-stay visas and residence permits in the system.
The modernized Visa Information System is expected to be operational and fully interoperable with the other information systems by the end of 2023.