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More flexible visa rules to boost growth

1 April 2014

Press conference with Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani and Commissioner Cecilia Malmström in Brussels. Photo: European Commission

Many non-EU nationals wishing to travel to the EU are often faced with cumbersome, lengthy and costly visa procedures. With proposals from the European Commission presented this week, procedures will be shortened and simplified for those wanting to come to the EU for short stays. Making the access to the Schengen area easier for legitimate travellers, whilst maintaining the level of security, will facilitate visiting friends and relatives and doing business. It will boost economic activity and job creation.

"Europe needs a smarter visa policy. We need to attract more tourists, business people, researchers, students, artists and culture professionals to our shores. Now, we want to boost our economy and create new jobs by underlining the economic dimension in our visa policy, while keeping a high level of security at our borders. Today's proposals will greatly facilitate the procedures for short stay visitors. Thanks to these proposals we expect a serious increase of travellers in the years to come," said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs.

A recent study shows that in 2012, a total number of 6.6 million potential travellers from six of the countries with the most travellers were 'lost' due to cumbersome visa procedures. It also showed that more flexible and accessible visa rules could lead to an increase in trips to the Schengen area of between 30% and up to 60%, only from these six countries. This could mean as much as €130 billion in total direct spending over five years (in accommodation, food and drink, transports, entertainment, shopping, etc.), and could translate into some 1.3 million jobs in tourism and related sectors such as the restaurant and transport industries.

In order to stimulate the European economy and to facilitate the lives of travellers towards the EU, the European Commission is proposing changes in the visa rules. The main elements of this package are:

(1) Reducing the deadline from 15 to 10 days for processing and taking a decision; (2) Making it possible to lodge visa applications in other EU countries consulates if the Member State competent for processing the visa application is neither present nor represented;(3) Substantial facilitations for regular travellers including mandatory issuing of multiple entry visas valid for three years;(4) Simplified application form and allowing for online applications (5) Possibility for Member States to devise special schemes granting visas at the borders for up to 15 days in one Schengen State; (6) Possibility for Member States to facilitate the issuing of visa for visitors attending major events; (7) A new type of visa (Touring-visa) allowing legitimate travellers to circulate in the Schengen area for up to 1 year (without staying in one Member State for more than 90 days in any 180-day period).

MORE

A longer press release is available with links to all legislative documents, as well as more questions and answers. Watch the press conference with Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Vice-President Antonio Tajani here, along with downloadable photos, and read Commissioner Malmström's speech from the event. Visa statistics for 2013 are available here.