The improvements to the Visa Information System (VIS), agreed on Wednesday by MEPs, would ensure a better EU response to security and migratory challenges.

The Visa Information System (VIS) is an EU database used by authorities to check non-EU nationals who need a visa to travel to the Schengen area. The reform would enable the system to better respond to evolving security and migratory challenges and improve the EU’s external border management.

MEPs want the reform of the database to include:

mandatory security checks across all EU databases to detect applicants using multiple identities and identify anyone posing security or irregular migration risks;

long-stay visas, including the so-called golden visas, and residence permits to be added to the database to close security information gaps;

the age for obtaining fingerprints and facial images of minors will be lowered from 12 to 6 years to help identify and trace missing children and establish family links; ; fingerprints won’t be required from persons over the age of 70;

better access for Europol and law enforcement authorities to VIS data to identify victims of crime or make progress in their investigations into serious crime or terrorism.

Rapporteur Carlos Coelho (EPP, PT) said: “Today we approved a VIS that closes the information gaps in our security strategy. Golden visas will be screened as never before, in Europe. Security checks will be harmonised across the continent, with increased cooperation between consular authorities, border guards and police officers. We will have better tools for return. We will prevent child trafficking and identify criminals and terrorists better. This is a future-proof VIS.”

The Visa Information System has helped visa, border, asylum and migration authorities to check non-EU nationals who need a visa to travel to the Schengen area since 2011. Member states process around 18 million applications for short-stay Schengen visas annually. In August 2018, the system had over 60 million visa applications and 40 million sets of fingerprints.

The Parliament adopted its position on the reform of the Visa Information System by 522 votes to 122, with 31 abstentions. Parliament and Council negotiators still need to negotiate on the final wording of the legislation.