The Schengen visa permits the holder to visit any of the 26 countries in the Schengen Area.
11 September 2012
European Commission to take control of Schengen visa
The European Commission has announced it will take direct control of all Schengen visa applications from the end of 2012.
Schengen visa applications are currently outsourced to third party consortium Steria but it is understood the EC wishes to exercise greater control and potential for information sharing across the system.
The Schengen visa allows the holder to visit any of the 26 European countries which are signatories of the Schengen agreement. The current system, which was commissioned by the EC's Directorate General for Home Affairs last October, processes an average of 4,000 applications a day, rising to 11,000 around peak times.
While the visa is an extremely popular option for tourists, the EC is concerned about the practice of 'visa shopping' in which an applicant can apply for the visa in different countries each time they are rejected; the practice has been linked to human trafficking and terrorism activities.
A spokesperson for Steria explained that the sheer size of the Schengen area and the political relationships involved mean it is perhaps better handled by the executive body of the European Union.
"Given the large number of stakeholders involved and the political sensitivities surrounding the implementation and the system itself, the European Commission will take over the management of this system from the end of 2012, and will naturally continue to monitor operations carefully."
The Worldwide Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in Schengen visa services.