Migration and Home Affairs

Border crossing

The abolition of internal border controls cannot come at the expense of security. Since no checks are carried out at the borders between Schengen states, EU States have decided to join forces to attain the dual objective of improving security through more efficient external border controls, while facilitating access of those having a legitimate interest to enter the EU territory.

Harmonising rules and procedures

The Schengen Borders Code provides EU States with a single set of common rules that govern external border checks on persons, entry requirements and duration of stays in the Schengen Area. By harmonising these rules, the EU seeks to render them more efficient, whilst increasing their transparency. Similarly, through the Schengen Visa Code EU States have harmonised conditions and procedures for issuing short-stay visas (i.e. visas for stays that do not exceed three months). They have also established a list of countries (Regulation (EC) No 539/2001) whose citizens are subject to a visa requirement when entering the EU and a list of countries for which this requirement is waived (long-stay visas and residence permits for visits exceeding three months remain subject to national conditions).

A clearer definition of short stay of non-EU citizens in the Schengen area ("90 days in any 180 days period") is applicable from 18 October 2013. Since then a new method of calculation of short stays applies.

The short-stay calculator can be used for calculating the period of allowed stay under the new rules. The user's guide contains information on the new rules, the use of the calculator and practical examples.

This change does not apply to the visa waiver agreements concluded between the EU and Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Mauritius, and Seychelles, with respect to which the old definition ("3 months during a 6 months period following the date of first entry") continues to apply.

The length of stay of non-EU citizens traveling with a visa issued in accordance with the visa facilitation agreements concluded by the EU and certain third countries is to be calculated according to the new calculation method since in these agreements there is a reference to "90 days per period of 180 days".

A Local Border Traffic Regime has been established for border residents who frequently need to cross the external borders of the Union. It enables EU States to conclude bilateral agreements with their neighbouring non-EU countries so that the border residents can travel back and forth without a Schengen visa and, therefore, without any impediment to trade, social and cultural interchange in the region concerned.

On April 2016, the Commission adopted a revised legislative proposal for Smart Borders. The revised legislative proposal for Smart Borders includes: a Regulation for the establishment of an Entry/Exit System (annex) and a proposed amendment to the Schengen Borders Code to integrate the technical changes needed for the Entry/Exit System (annex).

Furthermore, the link on the Schengen Borders Code of the first paragraph of section "Harmonising rules and procedures" should be updated following the adoption of the new codification of the Schegen Border Code (Regulation (EU) 2016/399).

Solidarity and cooperation

All EU States have to make investments to protect their external borders in the interest of the entire Schengen Area. For some States, notably those situated at the external frontiers of the Union, these investments can be very high due to particular migratory pressures. The EU Internal Security Fund establishes solidarity between the Schengen States by supporting those countries with a heavy financial burden in implementing the common standards on external border controls.

Operational cooperation between EU States is coordinated by the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders ("FRONTEX"). The major task of the Frontex Agency is to coordinate joint operations to assist EU States in managing migratory flows at their external borders. The joint operations coordinated by the Frontex Agency at sea are governed by Regulation 656/2014, which establishes rules on interception, rescue and disembarkation to be applied in the context of such joint operations. The Agency also manages a pool of border guards called European Border Guard Teams for deployment as guest officers during Frontex joint operations and pilot projects, and during Rapid interventions in States facing urgent and exceptional pressures at their external borders.

The EU established a new information sharing and cooperation mechanism called EUROSUR (European Border Surveillance System). This mechanism provides Schengen countries with a common operational and technical framework, which assists them in countering cross-border crime, preventing unauthorized border crossings and diminishing the tragic death tolls of migrants at sea.

Sharing information

A number of information sharing mechanisms are at the heart of European cooperation on border management. Over the past years, the EU has been striving to embrace new technologies and create large-scale IT systems (such as SIS and VIS) in a coherent and proportional way to improve these tools. They permit European authorities throughout the Schengen Area to efficiently share and use data necessary for the execution of their tasks.