The European Union is set to modernize the Schengen visa application process by introducing a fully digital system. EU foreign ministers have endorsed this move towards an online platform, aimed at eliminating the need for physical appointments at consulates or visits to external service providers. A significant change will be the absence of physical visa stickers in passports.

This digital shift, which follows a lengthy legislative process, is expected to be implemented three weeks after its publication in the EU’s official journal. Spain’s Interior Minister, currently representing the EU presidency, highlighted that this new online visa system will make the application process easier for travelers.

The upcoming e-visa application procedure will include the online submission of documents, including those containing biometric data, and the payment of application fees. Successful applicants will receive a digitally signed barcode, which can be printed or stored digitally. However, individuals applying for the first time or those with new passports or updated biometric information might still need to attend a physical appointment for additional verification.

Countries like Australia already have similar online visa systems where visas are electronically linked to passports, eliminating the need for physical stickers.

Additionally, citizens from over 60 nations, including Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States, will be exempt from the Schengen visa for short visits but will need to apply for pre-screened entry through the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), similar to the U.S. ESTA. This system, along with the EU Entry/Exit System (EES), aims to streamline the process for travelers entering the European Union, whether with visas, visa waivers, or ETIAS.

The Schengen area includes 23 EU member countries and neighboring nations like Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

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