Updated at 19:45,21-02-2018

EU embassies expect smooth introduction of Schengen Area's Visa Information Service in Belarus

By Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

Representatives of European Union embassies said on Friday that they expected a smooth and trouble-free introduction of the Schengen Area’s Visa Information Service in Belarus.

The VIS, a database that allows the Schengen states to exchange data on decisions relating to short-stay visa applications, will begin operation in the six countries involved in the EU’s Eastern Partnership program, including Belarus, on June 23.

Speaking to reporters in Minsk, Rodolphe Richard, head of the Political, Press and Information Section at the EU Delegation to Belarus, expressed hope that there would be a quick transition to the new system and said that the Schengen states were taking the matter very seriously.

The VIS will contain both textual and biometric information, including fingerprints and digital photographs.

The French embassy in Minsk has required visa applicants to give their fingerprints for years. However, fingerprints given by visa applicants before June 23 will not be included in the VIS and the people will have to be fingerprinted again after applying for a Schengen visa after that date, said Mr. Richard.

Visa applicants' fingerprints given after June 23 will be stored in the VIS for 59 months and may be used by the embassy of any Schengen state during that period.

Speaking at the news conference, representatives of the embassies of Poland, Latvia, Germany and Italy said that their consular offices were fully ready for the introduction of the VIS. The embassies plan to extend their hours and add more staff who will accept visa applications and take their fingerprints.

In particular, the Polish embassy's consular office in Minsk will extend its hours until 4 p.m. and add two more visa counters.

The embassy's officer acknowledged that visa applications were still difficult to register with the embassy online, blaming the years-long problem on hackers. He said that the coming opening of Polish visa application centers would be a solution to the problem.