Visa Information System

Visa Information System

Visa Information System

Visa Information System (VIS) is a technology used by the European Union to process the data collected for travelers having short-term trips. VIS includes a central IT system and a communication network connecting it to national systems.

This tool allows to enhance security within the Schengen Area, reinforce border measures, and strengthen the EU visa policy.

VIS, as a Schengen instrument, is applicable to all Schengen countries. The EU Agency for large-scale IT systems, eu-LISA, is in charge of the operational management of VIS.

VIS links together consulates from non-EU nations and all of the external Schengen State entry ports. It deals with data and decisions regarding applications for short-term visas to enter or make a transit through the Schengen Area. The system is also able to do biometric matching, mainly of fingerprints, for verification and authentication.

What is a Visa Information System?

Visa Information System (VIS) is a database that European Union implemented to support the visa application process and improve border security.

The system contains biometric data – photographs and fingertips of holders of short-term or transit visas to the Schengen Area countries – and enables EU countries to access and share this information.

VIS applies to the whole Schengen area. Denmark has decided to implement it. The operations of VIS are managed by the European Agency for Largescale Information Systems (euLISA).

How does VIS work in practice?

10-digit fingerprint scan and a digital photo are taken from persons applying for a visa. These biometric data, together with the information given in the visa application, are saved in a secure centralized database.

Finger scans are not mandatory for minors aged 12 or below and those who are physically incapable of providing finger scans. Individuals making frequent visits to the Schengen Area do not need to give new finger scans for each new visa application.

Once the finger scans are put into the VIS, they can be used again within the following 5 years.

What is the purpose of VIS?

The purposes of using VIS are numerous:

  • Prevention of identity theft. VIS allows border guards to confirm that a traveler presenting a visa is its rightful holder and to identify passengers that are on the Schengen territory and have no or fraudulent documents.
  • Faster secure checks. The system uses biometric data to confirm a visa holder’s identity and to facilitate the process of issuing visas.
  • Better security. VIS enables authorities to prevent, discover and investigate terrorist offenses and other serious criminal offenses within the EU.
  • Fighting fraudulent behaviors. Technology helps avoid such fraudulent practices, such as “visa shopping” – making further visa applications to other EU member countries when a first application has been refused.
  • Assistance with asylum applications. VIS facilitates the process of regulating which EU State is responsible for examining asylum applications.

Who can access VIS?

The authorities that are in charge of conducting checks at external borders and inside the national territories have access to VIS. They can use it to confirm a person’s identity, the validity of a visa, or whether a person satisfies the requirements for entry, stay, or residence within the national territories.

Asylum authorities are allowed to search the VIS in order to decide which EU State is in charge of reviewing an asylum application. In some circumstances, national authorities and Europol may require access to VIS to prevent, identify, and look into terrorist and criminal offenses.