Rabat – The EU Commission has proposed upgrades to its Visa Information System (VIS) that would require all Schengen visa applications to be checked across other EU information systems for security and migration.
Schengen visas grant successful applicants access to the 26 European states that agreed to abolish internal borders in the Schengen agreement. The UK, which wants to maintain its own borders, is famously not a member to the agreement. (Five other EU member states, Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, and Cyprus, are also not part of the Schengen.)
Under the proposed changes, holders of long-term visas and residence permits would be included in VIS, the database for Schengen visa applications, in addition to those applying for short-term visas, which are in the current system.
According to the EU’s press release on Wednesday, the changes will give law enforcement “more structured access to the VIS for the prevention, detection or investigation of terrorist offences or other serious crimes.”
Hundreds of thousands of Moroccans apply for Schengen visas each year. In fact, Morocco is among the top ten countries submitting short-term Schengen visa applications. Last year, 614,472 applications for Schengen visas were received in consulates and embassies in Morocco. Of those, 15 percent were rejected.
According to the VIS factsheet, the system contains “over 55 million visa applications and nearly 47 million fingerprint sets as of May 2018.” In addition to fingerprints, the VIS contains facial images and information from the visa application.
The information can be accessed by a number of relevant authorities, including visa authorities, border guards, migration authorities, asylum authorities, law enforcement, and Europol.
The new upgrade will secure applicants’ information with a “data protection by design” approach. Data is retained in the VIS for five years from the expiration of the visa or from the date of a negative decision.