Travelers to any of the Schengen countries will with effect from December 21 receive new Visa stickers, different from what most Schengen countries currently affix to the passports of third-country nationals in need of short-term visas to the European borderless territory.
The current design of the visa sticker has been in circulation for 20 years now. The 26 Schengen countries are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia and Liechtenstein.
Others are Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Speaking to The Citizen, the Norwegian Ambassador to Tanzania, Ms Elizabeth Jacobsen also confirmed that the application procedure has changed and applicants no longer have to go the embassy to process their applications.
“The papers are processed in Dar es Salaam then sent to Nairobi for the final assessment before the applicant gets it back,” she said.
This comes after the Council Regulation laid down a uniform format for visas asserting that the common design for the visa sticker is considered to be compromised in view of serious incidents of counterfeiting and fraud.
“A new common design should, therefore, be established with more modern security features to render the visa sticker more secure and to prevent forgery,” the Council had asserted at the time.
On November 11, Finland moved on to become the first Schengen member to start granting visa applicants with visa stickers of the new designs.
According to a press release of VFS Global, outsourcing and technology services company to which the Finnish government has outsourced visa admission in several world countries, by December 21 this year, all Schengen members must start using the new stickers.
“All Finnish missions abroad and organizations issuing visas, including the Border Guard, Finnish Customs and the Police, started to use the new EU visa sticker on 11 November 2019. Regulation (EU) 2017/1370, amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1683/95 on a uniform format for visas, was adopted on 04 July 2017. All Member States must start using the new visa sticker by 21 December 2019,” the VFS press release reads.
It further explains that the introduction of the new visa sticker does not require any measures from visa applicants, while adding that visas stickers issued before November 11, will be valid for the period indicated on them.
The EU has undertaken several new steps in making visa applications for short term stays easier for applicants and member countries, as well as safer and more secure.
At the beginning of June this year, the EU Council adopted the proposed amendments to the Schengen Visa code which tend to provide faster and clearer procedures for legitimate travelers. This includes allowing applicants to lodge applications three months in advance (now it is three), increasing the visa fees from €60 to €80, and providing the possibility for the application form to be filled in and signed electronically.
On August 14, the Federal Council of Switzerland moved on to become the first Schengen member to align its corresponding regulations with the updated visa code, by announcing that starting from February 2, 2020, Switzerland would start applying the new visa code.