The EU Parliament approved a reform of the Visa Information System that increases interoperability with key databases and improves EU’s external border management.
The European Parliament gave on Wednesday its final approval to an update of the Visa Information System, already negotiated with the Council (position adopted in May 2021), which boosts the inter-connectivity of EU’s databases related to security and migration, and protect the fundamental rights of data subjects.
Parliament’s key demands were taken on board in the negotiation. The deal provides for:
- interoperability with other EU databases (Schengen Information System, the Entry-Exit System, European Travel Information Authorisation System, Eurodac, Europol data and ECRIS-TCN ) that contain visa-relevant information;
- inclusion of long-stay documents, and more robust safeguards for the rights of the holders of such documents;
- enhanced access for Europol and law enforcement authorities to VIS data;
- a lowering of the age at which fingerprints and facial images of minors can be collected from 12 to 6 years to help find missing children, combat child trafficking and establish family links;
- a requirement that children’s data can only be collected by officials specifically trained to work with minors, in a child-sensitive way;
- new rules on the use of facial images for biometric matching: for example, images must meet minimum quality threshold to be used for matching.
Rapporteur Paulo RANGEL (EPP, PT) said: “Today we take a crucial step in protecting our borders and the Schengen area of free movement. The reform of the VIS will help to better manage migration, to protect our borders and to fight crime, especially child trafficking. We are delivering on our promises: more freedom with more security.”
The text will now be sent to the Council for formal adoption, before it can enter into force.
The Visa Information System (VIS), an EU database that has been operational since 2011, is used by authorities to check non-EU nationals who need a visa to travel to the Schengen area. It consists of a central IT system and of communication infrastructure that connects consulates in non-EU countries and all external border-crossing points of Schengen States.
In May 2018, the European Commission submitted a proposal to upgrade the Visa Information System, to better respond to evolving security and migratory challenges and improve the EU’s external border management.