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Ethnic Profiling Concerns in Schengen Visa Applications

In light of recent reports suggesting the use of secret algorithms to profile Schengen visa applicants based on ethnicity, many foreigners planning to travel to the Schengen Area have become hesitant.

Ethnic Profiling Concerns in Schengen Visa Applications

The Netherlands, in particular, has been accused of employing such algorithms, leading to visa rejections for family members of Dutch citizens with a migration background. An investigation revealed the widespread use of algorithmic risk profiling systems by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2015.

Lighthouse Reports and the NRC highlighted the existence of a profiling system that calculates the risk score of short-stay visa applicants for the Netherlands and the Schengen area. Millions of applicants have been profiled based on variables like nationality, age, and gender. Those deemed "high risk" are automatically placed in an intensive track, resulting in delays and extensive investigations, often leading to visa rejections.

Concerns have arisen among third-country nationals who require a Schengen visa, as they fear other Schengen countries might also employ similar algorithms.

Sweden, currently holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU, affirmed that it does not utilize algorithms to profile Schengen visa applicants based on ethnicity, gender, age, or economic background. The Swedish Migration Agency stated that all applications are handled in accordance with the Schengen visa application code, with decisions to be made within 15 calendar days, extendable to 45 days for certain cases. The agency emphasized that processing times may vary due to consultations with other Member States but denied any discrimination against applicants.

Similarly, Spanish authorities stated that Spain does not employ algorithms or filters concerning visa applications, whether they are Schengen visas or national visas. They asserted that the visa processing is the same for all applicants, without discrimination based on ethnic origin or personal circumstances. The processing time may vary based on factors such as the workload of consular offices.

France and Switzerland, two countries with high visa application volumes, did not issue official statements on the matter, raising concerns among third-country nationals requiring visas to enter the Schengen Area.

VFS Global, responsible for managing administrative tasks related to visa applications on behalf of the Netherlands, stated that it does not discriminate against Schengen visa applicants. The company clarified that it has never been involved in potential applicant filtering and only manages administrative tasks. VFS Global stressed that visa appointment slots are allocated based on client government requirements and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

While concerns over profiling algorithms persist, some applicants have shared their experiences. One individual from India claimed that their friends' visa applications were rejected by the Netherlands despite meeting all requirements, raising suspicions about secret algorithms. Another applicant mentioned being rejected for a fully funded conference in the Netherlands while visas were granted for honeymoons.

A list of the top ten easiest countries to obtain a Schengen visa was compiled based on the 2022 rejection rates. Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Poland, Luxembourg, Finland, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Iceland had rejection rates of 12.7% and below. Malta, Sweden, Belgium, and France were identified as the Member States most likely to reject Schengen visa applications.

Third-country nationals who require a Schengen visa must submit the same general documents, including a completed application form, photos, valid passport, roundtrip reservation, proof of accommodation, travel health insurance, sufficient financial means, and payment of the visa fee. Specific additional documents may be required based on employment status.

These developments have raised concerns about the potential implications of algorithmic profiling on the visa application process within the Schengen Area.



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