Obtaining a Schengen visa continues to pose challenges for nationals of third countries seeking entry into the Schengen Area. These challenges include long waiting periods for visa appointments, lengthy processing times, and complex application requirements. While efforts have been made to improve the system, applicants have expressed their discontent, prompting inquiries into possible solutions.
Applicants have raised concerns about the extended waiting times for Schengen visa appointments and the varying guidelines followed by issuing countries. One applicant lamented the unpredictability of appointment availability and the inconsistency in visa validity. Such issues have frustrated applicants and led to calls for reforms.
Switzerland, a Schengen member, acknowledges the need for improvements. The country continually updates its national visa system to enhance user experiences and streamline application procedures within EU-established regulations. Switzerland also reviews the need for new visa acceptance centers and strives for better geographical coverage to ease the application process.
Sweden shares a similar commitment to facilitating visa applications. While the country has not opened new visa application centers, it continuously assesses staffing needs to handle increased application volumes during peak seasons. The Swedish Migration Agency emphasizes that the Visa Code allows for longer validity periods and multiple-entry visas for frequent travelers.
The European Commission has called on member states to enhance operational capacities and address long waiting times by increasing appointment availability. Delays, especially during holiday periods, have highlighted the need for embassies and consulates to follow rules and restore capacity.
The revised Visa Code, in force since February 2020, introduced several changes to enhance the Schengen visa application process. These include extending the application period to six months before the intended visit and issuing multiple-entry visas with extended validity when applicants meet requirements.
Digitalization of the visa procedure is expected to further improve processing times and reduce administrative burdens. Once fully implemented, applicants can file online, eliminating the need to visit a consulate or application center. Visas will be issued digitally, eliminating the requirement to leave travel documents for visa stickers.
While all Schengen member states adhere to the same rules, data shows varying rejection rates for visa applications. Iceland, Lithuania, and Latvia had the lowest rejection rates in 2022, making them the easiest countries to obtain a Schengen visa. Conversely, Malta, Sweden, Belgium, and France had the highest rejection rates.
Efforts to address Schengen visa challenges are ongoing, aiming to simplify procedures, reduce waiting times, and provide a smoother experience for applicants.
By fLEXI tEAM