Frequent travellers to Europe no longer need to apply for the short-term Schengen visas.
The European Union’s new visa rules, which came into effect on February 2, allow multiple-entry visas with long validity (from 1 to 5 years) under a graded approach wherein a frequent traveller will need to earn the next stage of longer duration visa.
The new rules say multiple-entry visas with long validity shall be issued for validities of one, two or five years, unless the validity of the visa would exceed that of the travel document. “For a validity period of one year, provided that the applicant has obtained and lawfully used three visas within the previous two years.
For a validity period of two years, provided that the applicant has obtained and lawfully used a previous multiple entry visa valid for one year within the previous two years.
For a validity period of five years, provided that the applicant has obtained and lawfully used a previous multiple entry visa valid for two years within the previous three years,” the rules say.
The EU website says about the new visa code: “Frequent travellers with a positive visa history are to be granted multiple-entry visa with a gradually increasing validity period from 1 year to a maximum of 5 years.
Travellers’ fulfilment of entry conditions will be thoroughly and repeatedly verified… Multiple-entry visas allow the holder to travel repeatedly to the EU during the period of validity of the visa.”
The EU says the new regime will save “frequent travellers time and money, as they will have to apply for a new visa less often”. A Schengen visa is for entry to 22 EU countries like Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden, and four associated countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
A leading travel agent says a multiple-entry Schengen visa holder should not remain in the Schengen zone longer than 90 days, within 180 days.
The other changes in the visa rules, reported by TOI on January 25, allow visa applications to be submitted up to six months before intended travel, instead of three months previously.