London: The European Union on Tuesday launched a
Visa Information System (VIS) for Indians and other non-EU
citizens applying for a Schengen visa that will help prevent
fraud, official sources said.
In a statement, the EU said that the new system will help
process visa applications faster due to the use of biometrics
(fingerprints and a digital facial image).
It will allow for a quick and effective exchange of data
on short-stay visas among Schengen countries.
Indian citizens seeking to visit the 25 countries in the
Schengen area in European Union need the `Schengen visa`.
Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrm, responsible for Home
Affairs, said: "From now on, foreigners wishing to visit the
EU will benefit from clearer, more precise, transparent and
fairer visa application rules.
The new system will also allow visas to be issued and
verified in a more efficient and secure way.
This is a big step towards improving and modernising the
common EU visa policy."
Currently, around 13 million Schengen visas are issued
every year by the 25 countries of the Schengen area, and
numbers are likely to increase in the future.
The current visa delivering, monitoring and verifying
system is struggling to cope with such big numbers.
The EU said that it was not always easy to prevent frauds
and abuses and the application process can be cumbersome for
those who are legitimately seeking a short stay visa for
travel within the EU.
"The new technologically advanced Visa information
system (VIS) helps to tackle these challenges by introducing
digital facial image and fingerprints. The VIS will not only
speed up the processing of visa applications but will also
make checks at external borders more efficient and enhance
overall border security," the EU said.
Visa authorities in all Schengen states will be able to
consult the VIS data, for example when a previous applicant
applies for a new visa.
The VIS will contain all Schengen visa applications and
all subsequent decisions taken by the visa authorities.
This will allow applicants to obtain new visas quicker
and more easily, as authorities will be able to verify the
applicant`s good track-record and reliability.
The VIS will not become operational in all Schengen
countries consulates worldwide at once.
All Schengen states` consular posts worldwide should be
connected to the VIS within two years.