Effective from 02 February 2020, various changes to the Schengen Visa will come into effect as approved by the European Commission in June 2019.
Frequent travellers, including seafarers, who travelled to EU Member states and returned to their home countries without any infringements of visa conditions and/or overstays may qualify for multiple-entry visas with a validity of 5 years.
Such applications, however, must be submitted with enough proof that the applicant will return to their home country and the intention to leave the EU after the prescribed 5-year period. In addition, seafarers may apply for a Schengen visa nine months prior to the intended travel date, while other travellers can apply six months prior. This should prove to be a great benefit to seafarers that are awaiting final schedule of their first port of call.
The effected changes also include a requirement by EU member states whereby each state must have a representative of their respective country in each country abroad to ensure travellers are not required to visit a neighbouring country for the sole purpose of applying for a Schengen visa.
The numerous benefits of the changes to the Schengen visa, however, comes at a cost. The visa fee for the Schengen visa is expected to increase from €60 (R962) to €80 (R1,282) per application. Children, over the age of 6, will now have to pay €40 (R640) instead of the previous lower fee of €35 (R560) per application.
The new Schengen Visa Code will also allow for a mechanism to review the visa fees every three years and determine should these remain the same or increase. The same may compel non-Schengen countries in cooperating with the EU for the readmission of their illegal migrants. Nevertheless, the Schengen area may see a substantial increase of travellers and seafarers as a result of these positive visa changes.