Earlier this week, the European Union green-lit regulations that will allow visitors to the Schengen zone to apply for visas online. The move means that, for the most part, travellers who need a visa to enter any of the 27 European countries in the Schengen area will not need to visit a consulate or undergo long waiting periods to receive an answer to their application.
Hong Kong passport holders — who have visa-free entry to these countries for short stays of up to 90 days within any 180-day period — only need to apply for visa for long stays, which they can do online when the new visa application platform is operational.
How will the online Schengen visa application website work?
Travellers who need a visa to enter these Schengen zone can use the new website to access “the relevant national visa systems” of these European countries. If an applicant needs to visit more than one Schengen country, the portal will direct them to a country’s visa website depending on how long they plan to stay there. However, travellers can also choose which member state can evaluate their applications, depending on the purpose of their travel.
Applicants can enter all required data on the website, as well as upload digital copies of their travel and supporting documents, and pay their visa fees. Travellers will also be notified about the decisions regarding their applications on this portal. Once the online application system goes live, applicants will get a digital visa in the form of a cryptographically signed 2D barcode, instead of the visa stickers they currently get in their passports.
Do I have to visit a consulate to get a Schengen visa?
Only applicants who are applying for a Schengen visa for the first time, travellers whose biometric data is no longer valid, and those with new travel documents will need to make an in-person appearance at a consulate. There is no official word on when the website will launch, as “technical work on the visa platform and the digital visa” must first be completed before an announcement is made.
Earlier this year, there was news that nationals with visa-free access to 30 European countries — the 27 Schengen countries as well as Cyprus, Ireland, and Romania — will need to get a new travel authorisation called ETIAS before they travelled to these nations. This will apply to Hong Kong SAR passport holders as they can stay in these countries for short-term stays without getting a visa.
The ETIAS requirement was supposed to come into effect in 2024, but has been pushed to 2025 so that the new Entry/Exit System can kick off first in August 2024.
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