Long waiting periods for a Schengen visa appointment, lengthy processing times, and complex application requirements remain some of the most common challenges for nationals of third countries who need the document to enter the Schengen Area.
While the EU authorities and the Member States have taken measures to improve their operational capacities and address the current challenges, applicants have continued to express their discontent with the visa procedures.
For this reason, SchengenVisaInfo.com has reached out to Member States and the Commission of the European Union to learn more about the initiatives they plan to take to accelerate visa processing and cut the number of required documents.
Applicants Say Schengen Visa Appointments “Take Forever”
Applicants have said that appointments for a Schengen visa “take forever” and have complained about the guidelines that the issuing countries follow.
An applicant said that you never know when you can find available appointment slots and, at the same time, stressed that some embassies are keeping passports for up to two months and then granting only one-week single entry visas.
Appointments take forever, and then there is no way to guarantee the validity of a visa. Sometimes one week, sometimes one year. The entire guidelines of if you’ve had two-year visas, you can get a three-year visa, etc., seems to be not followed at all.Vishnu Mohan
In addition, Mohan said that the visa-issuing system of the Schengen Member States is “a total mess”. He stressed that instead of issuing visas with the validity embassies want, they should make a system that would allow applicants to apply for a one-year multiple-entry visa, even if that would cost more.
Other applicants have also complained about brokers booking all the appointments and then selling them for a higher fee and have called for increased geographical presence and accessibility from the Schengen Member States embassies.
Visa System Is Regularly Updated to Improve User Experience & Streamline Application Procedure, Switzerland Says
Switzerland has said that the country’s Schengen visa system is regularly updated to improve the user experience as well as to streamline the application procedures within the rules set by the European Union.
Switzerland uses a national visa system that is regularly updated. The upcoming Schengen developments to update the Visa Information System and to digitalise the visa application process will be used to further streamline and digitalise the visa application process for Switzerland.Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
The Federal Department said for SchengenVisaInfo.com that Switzerland consistently reviews the existing visa acceptance centres and any need to expand existing locations and open new ones.
As revealed, in recent months, Switzerland has started outsourcing in Algeria and opened one acceptance centre in Algiers.
Moreover, in an attempt to facilitate the visa application process, the Department said that the country’s representation in New Delhi has opened an additional centre in Lucknow, the representation in Saudi Arabia has opened a new visa application centre in Al Khobar, and the representation in Sri Lanka has opened a new visa application centre in Malé.
Additionally, to address the challenges faced by Schengen visa applicants, the Department said that Switzerland has expanded its existing visa application centres or is currently in preparation to do so at some other locations, including Beijing, Cairo, Dubai, Istanbul, New Delhi, Pretoria, Prishtina, Shanghai and Singapore.
To streamline the Schengen visa application process, the Swiss authorities noted that they have also relocated human resources and upgraded staff skills. As a result, it has been disclosed that most Swiss representations are now working with the same operational setup as before the pandemic.
The Swiss authorities are closely monitoring the situation of their visa services around the world and are taking appropriate measures where necessary.the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
Sweden Striving for Better Geographical Coverage to Improve Accessibility
Similar to Switzerland, Sweden also said that the country is trying to make changes to facilitate the visa application process.
The Swedish Migration Agency said for SchengenVisaInfo.com that despite not having opened any new visa application centres, the country’s representations abroad continuously review the need and strive for better geographical coverage to make it easier for the applicants to go through the process of applying for a Schengen visa.
We continuously review the staffing and increase staff during high season to be able to handle the increased volumes of applications.Swedish Migration Agency
It further noted that the Visa Code is a generous and favourable regulatory framework that allows people who travel frequently and do not misuse their visas to obtain visas with a longer validity period for multiple entries.
As for streamlining the entire process by simplifying the application rules, among others, the Swedish Migration Agency stressed that they need to handle all the applications according to the regulations, stressing that they do not have the option to deviate from the code.
EU Commission Has Required Member States to Address Long Waiting Times by Releasing More Appointments
Following the increased demand for Schengen visas once the COVID restrictions were lifted, the Commission of the European Union called on the Member States to improve their operational capacities and address the long waiting times by releasing more appointments.
However, challenges remain. The European Commission Spokesperson for Home Affairs, Anitta Hipper, said for SchengenVisaInfo.com that intermediaries using sophisticated IT tools are booking appointments on behalf of the applicants as soon as new appointments are released, making it difficult for others to book appointments on their own.
Moreover, Hipper stressed that delays are especially felt during the holiday period, and for this reason, she stressed that embassies and consulates must follow the rules and make every effort to restore their capacities.
The Commission has called on the Member States’ visa authorities to improve their operational capacities and address this issue [delays] by releasing more appointments.Anitta Hipper
In addition, Hipper said that the revised Visa Code that entered into force in February 2020 includes several provisions aimed at improving the process of applying for a visa.
Some of the changes introduced to improve the Schengen visa application rules are that the period to lodge an application has been extended from three to six months before the start of the intended visit, and the Member States have started issuing multiple entry visas with a long validity when the applicants meet the applicable requirements.
Regarding the impact that the digitalisation of the visa procedure will have, Hipper said that it will reduce the administrative burden associated with handling paper applications and visa stickers and will contribute to improving the processing time.
The rules regarding digitalisation of the visa procedure agreed by the European Parliament and the Council will modernise, simplify, and harmonise the visa procedures for non-EU country nationals applying for a visa and for the Member States who need to grant such visas through digitalisation.Commissioner Hipper
As soon the visa application process goes fully online, Hipper noted that all applicants will be able to file their application online, thereby saving costs to travel to apply at the consulate of the visa application centre.
Moreover, the visa will be issued in a digital format, meaning that the applicants will not have to leave their travel documents at the consulate to add the visa sticker, and there will be no costs to get the document back.
In accordance with the Visa Code, Member States have to decide on applications within 15 calendar days of the date of the lodging of an application which is admissible.Commissioner Hipper
These Are the Easiest Countries to Obtain a Schengen Visa
While all the Schengen visa-issuing countries have to follow the same rules when it comes to processing the applications, data show that some have lower rejection rates than others.
Recent data published by Schengen Visa Statistics reveal that Iceland, Lithuania, and Latvia were the top three countries with the lowest rejection rates in 2022. This means that these three countries are the easiest to obtain a visa.
In 2022, Iceland had a rejection rate of only 1.9 per cent, Lithuania had a rejection rate of 7.8 per cent, and Latvia had a rejection rate of 9.5 per cent.
The countries are followed by Slovakia, Finland, Luxembourg, Poland, Switzerland, Greece, and Italy, which make up the list of the top ten easiest countries to obtain a Schengen visa.