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Wanted: Less hassle to get a visa

7 November 2012

Photo: LucasTheExperience/Flickr (CC)

The EU needs to cut red tape for tourists who want to visit Europe. That means less bureaucracy to get a visa, simpler application processes and shorter handling times. As the world's most popular tourist destination, a large part of the EU economy is dependent on the more than 13 million visas issued to foreign visitors annually.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström is responsible for visa policies.

"We need to make it easier for tourists to reach the EU. Unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles must be eliminated while not compromising on security. A key aspect is to make sure that the rules that we have in place are actually followed", Malmström said on Wednesday, in connection with a press conference together with EU Commissioner for Industry, Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani.

In its Communication , the Commission asks Member States' consulates to stick to the existing rules on maximum handling times for visa applications; 15 days' deadline for granting an appointment, and 15 days waiting time for the visa decision. Application forms should be available in the language of the host country. In the longer term, the Commission also wants to see a simplification of application forms, and of the procedures surrounding supporting documents.

Market estimates indicate that 21 percent of potential tourists from emerging markets, such as China, Brazil and India, give up their travel plans to Europe due to visa requirements.

The tourism sector employs around 18,8 million people in the EU. Last year, foreign visitors spent over 330 billion Euros while in Europe. The number of Schengen visa applications grew by close to a third between 2009 and 2011.

More: Press release and full text of the visa communication, and more info on applicant countries and how to cut red tape. Watch Cecilia Malmström's and Antonio Tajani's press conference here.

Also: Commission proposes visa-free travel to citizens of 16 island nations.