Plan to streamline EU visa process

BRUSSELS - The European Commission will this week propose changes to visa legislation to make it easier for people to apply for a "Schengen" visa to visit the European Union's borderless areas.

The proposal is expected to be tabled on Wednesday and, if approved by the EU, decisions on visa applications should in principle take no longer than 10 calendar days, with 30 days as an exception for special cases.

It would also simplify the rules that state which supporting documents are needed, to make the process similar no matter which embassy or consulate the application is filed. Also, minors under the age of 18 would no longer have to pay a visa fee.

The move was announced in a statement  issued by Antonio Tajani, vice-president of the European Commission responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, and Cecilia Malmström, EU Home Affairs Commissioner.

They said it is intended to promote growth and employment in Europe. 

The European Commission will propose that people who regularly travel to Europe should be granted a multi-entry visa valid for several years if they have had a visa issued to them twice in the previous 12 months.

In addition, a new type of visa is proposed – a touring visa, with which the holder could stay in the Schengen area of Europe and travel across the continent for up to a year, with the possibility to extend it by another year.

In 2011, tourists spent approximately 400 billion euro in the EU. This figure would rise if Europe is able to continue to attract tourists from important economies, they said.

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