New regulation on the Visa Information System (VIS)

In “Promoting our European Way of Life”

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The Visa Information System (VIS), based on a Regulation 2008/767 of the European Parliament and of the Council, is an EU database which connects border guards at the EU's external borders with Member States' consulates across the world. It provides visa issuing authorities with key information on applicants for short-stay Schengen visas while allowing border guards to detect travellers that may pose security risks.

In its work programme for 2018 the European Commission announced that it will make the necessary proposals in 2018 to upgrade the Visa Information System (VIS). Thus, on 16 May 2018, the Commission adopted a proposal to upgrade the VIS in order to better respond to evolving security and migratory challenges and improve the EU's external border management. This should be done by allowing more thorough background checks on visa applicants, closing security information gaps through better information exchange between Member States and ensuring full interoperability with other EU-wide databases. The recordings in the VIS system will be automatically checked against all other EU information systems for security and migration; the scope of VIS will be extended to long-stay visas and residence permits; copies of travel documents will be included in the system and law enforcement authorities will have more structured access to the VIS. The eu-LISA will be responsible for the development and management of the new system.

In the European Parliament, the proposal upgrading the VIS system has been assigned to the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) under the rapporteurship of Carlos Coelho (EPP, Portugal). The rapporteur adopted his draft report on 19 October 2018. The deadline for tabling amendments is 13 November 2018. The LIBE Committee adopted the draft report on 4 February 2019. According to the report, there should be a possibility to transfer data from VIS to the Schengen Information System (SIS) as regards missing children, children at risk of gender violence and vulnerable adults. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency would have broader access to non-personal data and statistics, stored in VIS, whereas access for teams involved in returns of illegally staying third-country nationals would be restricted. The system would also be consistent with other systems, notably the European Travel Information and Authorisation System, and include proper safeguards when conducting specific checks and deciding on the follow-up actions, in order to protect the rights of third-country nationals and ensure the confidentiality of information. The system would become operational within a maximum of two years after the entry into force of the regulation. Moreover, the Commission would have to produce an evaluation of the VIS every two years.

The report was voted on during the March I plenary session, setting Parliament's position for trilogue talks. According to the report, the database must include:

  • mandatory security checks across all EU databases to detect applicants using multiple identities and identify anyone posing security or irregular migration risks;
  • long-stay visas, including the so-called golden visas, and residence permits to be added to the database to close security information gaps;
  • better access for Europol and law enforcement authorities to VIS data to identify victims of crime or make progress in their investigations into serious crime or terrorism.

On 24 September 2019, the European Parliament voted a decision to open interinstitutional negotiations. The file was split in two legislative files: visa processing and conditions for accessing other EU information systems for VIS purposes; both files were negotiated together.

On 8 December 2020, the German Council Presidency and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the main political elements of a draft regulation. Discussions will now continue at technical level on the remaining aspects, which are expected to be agreed by the end of this year.

On 27 January 2021, the LIBE Committee voted on and approved the texts of both files agreed during interinstitutional negotiations. On 27 May 2021, the EU Council adopted the regulation amending the Visa Information System. The legal acts were adopted by the European Parliament in a second reading on 7 July 2021. The acts were signed on 7 July and published in the Official Journal on 13 July. They shall enter into force on the twentieth day following that of their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted its opinion on 19 September 2018, in which it generally supports the further development of the Visa Information System (VIS), while making some additional recommendations.

References:

Author: Anja Radjenovic, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

Visit the European Parliament homepage on Migration.

As of 20/04/2024.