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15 March 2018, 18:06

Cheaper Schengen visas for Belarusians after signing relevant agreements with EU

MINSK, 15 March (BelTA) – The cost of the Schengen visas for Belarusians could drop to €35 after Belarus and the EU sign relevant agreements, the Delegation of the European Union to Belarus told BelTA while commenting on the European Commission's proposed visa changes.

“The proposed changes will now be discussed in the European Parliament and the Council. They must be agreed by both co-legislators before the new rules become law. The increase of the visa fee will not have any impact on the lower visa fee (€35) set in the Visa Facilitation Agreements concluded between the EU and a number of third countries, such as Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan,” the EU Delegation said.

The delegation recalled that in 2011 the European Commission received the mandate to negotiate an agreement on visa facilitation with Belarus which sets the general visa fee level at €35. For now it remains €60, until the proposal is agreed by the European Parliament and the Council.

“At the 4th negotiations round held in Minsk in June 2017, good progress was achieved on the text of the readmission agreement [between the EU and Belarus]. As regards the visa facilitation agreement, a few outstanding issues still need to be agreed. The two agreements shall enter into force simultaneously. The next round of negotiations is expected to be convened in Minsk in the coming months,” the EU Delegation said.

According to the EU Delegation, the European Commission has proposed to reform the EU common visa policy. Given the significant increase in the costs of processing visa applications over the years, a proposal has been made to increase the cost of visa fee from €60 to €80, which has not changed since 2006. This increase is intended to enable the member states to maintain the required number of consular personnel worldwide to ensure effective verification of the compliance with the security requirements and to upgrade the hardware and software without creating difficulties for visa applicants.

The proposed changes are aimed at streamlining the common visa policy rules, easing visa application procedures for both law-abiding travelers and member states and at the same time strengthening the visa procedure security standards. Thus, the deadline for taking a decision on a visa application will be reduced from 15 to 10 days. Travelers will be able to apply six months prior to the intended date of travel instead of the current three months, to fill and sign applications electronically. Common rules will apply to multiple visas to reduce costs and save time for the member states and frequent travelers. Such multiple-entry visas will be issued to reliable regular travelers with the visa-positive story for the period which will be gradually increased from one year to five years. Compliance by travelers with the entry conditions will be carefully and constantly checked.

To facilitate short-term travel, the member states will be able to issue one-time visas directly at the external land and sea borders under temporary, seasonal schemes on the harsh conditions. Such visas will be valid for stays of no more than 7 days only on the territory of the member state issuing the visa.

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