What digital visa platforms mean for the future of global mobility.
The European Union Council is close to digitizing the Schengen visa process. The proposal is currently under negotiation by the EU Council. If approved, the visa application approval process would now be on a single website. People would be able to handle all aspects of the Schengen visa application on the website, including submitting their applications, uploading travel documents, and paying fees. It would also mean that all Schengen visas would be issued digitally as a 2D barcode and cryptographically signed. This process would be open to applicants of all nationalities.
How Does This New Visa Platform Differ From the Current Process?
Currently, people looking to apply for a Tourist Schengen Visa must submit their visa application, their passport, two recent photos, and documents showing their round-trip reservation, and trip details in person. New applicants must also go to the embassy to submit additional biometrics. The online visa process would end the need for appointments at embassies and consulates for everyone except for first-time Schengen visa applicants or those with expired travel documents.
This online process would make travel easier for those with so-called weaker passports. Citizens of African, South Asian, and Middle East nations often have few visa-free travel options available. To get visas for travel, people must take time off work to make these necessary in-person visa appointments and sometimes have to schedule them months in advance.
Digital Visa Programs Around the World
Some countries, including Moldova, India, the Republic of Georgia, and Australia, have implemented successful electronic visa platforms. These digital visas vary in scope from full digitalization to online applications. The Australian eVisitor visa process is completely digital. Visitors must scan their passports at border control for their visas to be electronically read and verified. People looking to go to India can apply for their visitor visa online including uploading travel documents and paying visa fees. However, they will still have to bring hard copies of their visa through Indian immigration and customs once they arrive at the airport.
A digital process streamlines immigration services. Countries with electronic programs are reporting that they can process visitor visas in a matter of hours. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have had a large backlog of visa applicants, including the U.S. Currently, nationals from countries including India, United Arab Emirates, Columbia, and Argentina face wait times over six months long for B-1 or B-2 visitor visas.
What Does Visa Digitization Mean for Global Mobility Professionals?
A Worldwide ERC® infographic polling members in June 2022 reported that members ranked automation and process efficiencies as the second-largest priority for global mobility organizations. This move toward digital visas could extend beyond visitor visas to residential and work visas in the near future. The digital nomad visas are already a great example of successfully implemented electronically available work and residential visa programs. The future of the global mobility industry is dependent on technological advancements. Investing in the proper technology can provide benefits for case managers, transferees, and general global mobility professionals alike. As other countries look to implement similar digital programs or take current digital visa programs further, international travel could be simplified significantly.