23 November 2007

Rule changes made for EU Schengen visas

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New requirements for people applying for a Schengen Visa look set to be enforced after the EU Civil Liberties Committee gave its go-ahead to a draft regulation requiring member states in the Schengen area to take the facial image fingerprints from visa applicants wishing to enter EU territory

A Schengen visa' allows tourists or visitors to move freely in all the member states of the European Union who signed the Schengen agreement.

At the moment there are 15 member countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland have not signed the Schengen Agreement. Therefore, even if you hold a permanent or temporary residency permit to reside in the UK, you may still need a visa in order to enter the Schengen zone.

However, it is important that applicants have at least three months left on you UK immigration visa from the time you come back from your holiday using a Schengen visa. If for example your UK visa expires on 12 December 2008 you can only apply for a Schengen visa up to 12 September 2008. It is therefore important to make sure that all UK visa requirements are settled before applying for a Schengen visa.

The new rules would allow for countries to takes ten fingerprints and facial photographs of applicants, though ten children below the age of 12 will be exempted from giving fingerprints.

In addition, children will also be allowed to send scanned photographs so they do not have to appear in person at the consulate.

For security and data protection reasons, MEPs added several amendments to ensure that cooperation with external service providers in the collection of fingerprints and photos is used only "as a last resort".

Anyone interested in getting a better understanding of their current position under EU visa regulations should request a call from a qualified Visa Bureau migration consultant to see if they currently have a suitable UK visa to allow for a EU Schengen visa application, or call direct on Freephone 0800 043 7011.


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