Visa policy package – Visa Code recast and Touring Visa

In “Towards a new policy on migration”

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In April 2014, the Commission submitted a package with important changes to the EU visa rules. The package includes a Proposal for a regulation establishing a new type of visa ('touring visa') and a Proposal for a regulation on the Union Code on Visas. The Union Code on Visas proposal was also accompanied by a Commission Impact Assessment.

The Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 8 and 9 October 2015 discussed the Commission proposals. The Council agreed to take into account some of the Presidency’s suggestions for continuing work on the Commission’s April 2014 'visa package'. The Council discussed the Visa Code recast further on 13 April 2016 with COREPER agreeing on a negotiations mandate with the European Parliament on the Union Code on Visas.

A report adopted on 6 April 2016 by the European Parliament's LIBE Committee (rapporteur Brice Hortefeux EPP, France) proposes changes to the Commission proposal for a touring visa (and amending the Schengen Agreement Implementing Convention and Regulations (EC) No 562/2006 and (EC) No 767/2008), focusing on the following elements:

  • the need to limit visas’ scope to performing artists/elite sports persons and their support staff who have clearly demonstrated the administrative and logistical obstacles to organising a tour/competition in several Member States in the Schengen area lasting more than three months;
  • establishing stringent conditions and procedures for issuing touring visas and security;
  • the need for providing guarantees before a touring visa is issued, so as to limit the risks of fraudulent use, abuse or illegal immigration;
  • the need for strong cooperation between Member States to encourage touring visas’ issuing and to enable possible adjustments, and prolonging of the stage for mutual consultation between the Member States that the applicant wishes to visit;
  • the need for a more exhaustive list of substantiating documents for examining touring visa applications (assessing candidates’ sufficient proof that they will not stay for more than 90 days on the territory of a Member State and that during the total length of stay they will carry out one of the stated activities).

The Council examined the 'Touring visa' proposal between February and November 2015, and in February, September and October 2016.

On 25 April 2016, the LIBE Committee recommended amendments to the proposal for a regulation on the Union Code on Visas (Visa Code) (recast). MEPs suggested, among others, the following proposals:

  • the maximum stay of 90 days under the regulation would apply to a possible application for international protection on Member States’ territory and to the rights of refugees and persons requesting international protection, in particular concerning non-refoulement;
  • concerning airport transit visa requirements, Member States would be able to prolong their application only twice, when lifting it would lead to a substantial influx of irregular migrants. Should such an influx, the Member State concerned would ask the Commission to modify Annex III. Persons needing international protection would be exempt from the airport transit visa requirement;
  • a Member State consulate would examine and decide on an application when this is considered necessary on humanitarian grounds, for reasons of national interest or because of international obligations under the 1951 Convention on Refugees’ status, when the third-country national is not residing in its jurisdiction;
  • persons seeking international protection would be able to apply for a European humanitarian visa directly at any Member State consulate or embassy. Granting such a humanitarian visa after an assessment would allow the holder’s entry in the Member State’s territory issuing the visa only for the purpose of applying for international protection in that Member State;
  • exempting recipients of a humanitarian visa with limited territorial scope of visa fees;
  • exempting humanitarian visa holders from the standard ‘90 days in any 180 days’ period of validity, for a period of 12 months, based on assessing the situation in the third-country national’s country of origin or residence, and awarding special attention to the circumstances of persons requesting international protection;
  • applications of Union citizens’ close relatives and family members would be assessed taking into account the right to respect for private and family life set out in the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights . Refusals of applications by Union citizens’ close relatives and family members would be justified in a detailed way and in writing.

The Commission proposed to delete some cooperation arrangements between Member States. However, the LIBE Committee considers that the current optional forms of cooperation between them (co-location and Common Application Centres) should remain.

Trilogue meetings on the Visa Code (recast) took place on 12 May, 6 September, 11 October 2016 and 6 February 2017. The Council Visa Working Party examined the Visa Code (recast) on 24 October 2017.

On 7 March 2017 the Court of Justice of the European Union adopted its judgment on humanitarian visas in Case C-638/16 (PPU X and X v État belge), according to which Member States are not required, under EU law, to grant a humanitarian visa to persons who wish to enter their territory with a view to applying for asylum, but they remain free to do so on the basis of their national law.

The European Commission announced the visa policy package’s withdrawal - Visa Code recast and Touring Visa - in its work programme 2018, in the context of a new revised visa code proposal foreseen for Q1 2018. On touring visas the Commission noted it would not table a revised proposal and continue dialogue with the co-legislators to possibly re-launch discussions.


Author: Nikolai Atanassov,

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As of 20/11/2019.