The European Union has established a new Entry/Exit System (EES) that will effectively abolish passport stamping and implement mandatory biometric scanning for all visitors to the Schengen Area.
This policy shift mainly aims to strengthen security and streamline border crossings for the over 400 million travelers that enter the area every year.
What is the Schengen Visa?
First of all, what is the Schengen Area? It is a zone that contains 27 European countries that have officially abolished passports and many other types of border control at their mutual borders. Furthermore, it mostly functions as a single jurisdiction under a common visa policy for international travel purposes. So, visitors can travel between Schengen countries on a single visa without additional passport stamping, i.e., the Schengen visa.
The current visa system requires applicants to provide biometric data (fingerprints and photos) during the visa application process.
“The Schengen visa system has provided ease of travel across Europe for millions of visitors over the years,” said John Smith, policy expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “However, the continued reliance on passport stamps and paper documents is quickly becoming obsolete in an increasingly digital world.”
What is the New Entry/Exit System?
The European Union has approved a new Entry/Exit System (EES) for the Schengen Area to tighten security and facilitate cross-border travel. This new system will register travelers electronically when they cross an external border and again when they exit the area.
“A new entry and exit system is being developed to register every entry into the Schengen areas. It aims to ensure that we are more aware of the identity of the person visiting us. At the borders, there will be a collection of biometric and facial scans to ensure that we are talking about the right person,” said Francois Laruelle, director of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) Division at Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.
“This includes fingerprint and facial recognition scanning at both entry and exit points. Also, border guards are supposed to check at the moment of storing biometric information in the system that it corresponds to the person in front of them and is not somebody else,” he added.
How Will the Entry/Exit System Work?
The new entry/exit system will work as follows:
- A traveler arrives at an external Schengen border (airport, land crossing, etc.)
- He/she undergoes a biometric check that includes a fingerprint scan and facial image capture.
- After verification, the traveler is recorded in the EES and proceeds into the Schengen Area.
This biometric record will then be matched and verified again when the traveler exits the area.
“The system will automatically calculate the length of stay and detect overstayers,” explained Laruelle. “It will also enable real-time sharing of data between Schengen states.”
Benefits of the New Schengen Entry/Exit System (EES)
- The system will provide immigration officers with more information to conduct evidence-based checks. Moreover, the system will allow immigration authorities to identify overstayers and crack down on visa violations.
- It will speed up the border crossing process.
- Biometric verification improves the accuracy of the data of entry and exit records.
- It will fix the issue of fake passport stamps.
What Will Happen to the Schengen Visa?
The Entry/Exit system will not replace the need for a Schengen Visa. Moreover, travelers from countries like India, China, Russia, and others will still need to apply for a visa at a consulate before travel.
However, once the EES is active, the visa will only be checked electronically when they enter. It will no longer be stamped in the passport, which means that the biometric data registered via the new EES will replace the physical visa sticker.
“Visa stickers in passports will become obsolete,” explained James Reinhart, visa expert. “The EES record will represent a traveler’s legal authorization for entering and staying in the Schengen Area.”
In short, the new Entry/Exit System will mark a new era in the Schengen Area’s borders. Furthermore, no more passport stamps will be needed; all travelers will be scanned using fingerprint and face recognition at border checkpoints. While it may take time for travelers and officers to adjust, the goal is faster and safer journeys in the region.