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VISAS

REVEALED: EU plans digital-only Schengen visa application process

Soon those non-EU nationals requested to have a Schengen visa to travel to European countries will no longer need to go to a consulate to submit the application and get a passport sticker, but will be able to apply online. 

REVEALED: EU plans digital-only Schengen visa application process
A picture taken on September 28, 2021 in the Moroccan capital Rabat shows a Moroccan passport backdropped against a Schengen visa. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

The European Commission has proposed to make the Schengen visa process completely digital.

The special visa, which allows to stay for tourism or business (but not work) in 26 European countries for up to 90 days in any 6-month period. 

Nationals of third countries such as South Africa, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka need the Schengen Visa to visit Europe, but they are not needed for other non-EU nationals such as Britons or Americans. You can see the full list of countries who need a Schengen visa here.

The proposal will have to be approved by the European Parliament and Council, but is in line with an agreed strategy that EU governments are keen to accelerate in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

Once agreed, the system will be used by the countries that are part of the border-free Schengen area. These include EU countries, excluding Ireland (which opted out), and Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Cyprus (which do not issue Schengen visas). Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, which are not EU members but have signed the Schengen Convention, will be part of the new system too.

Paper-based processes required applicants to travel to consulates to submit the application and collect their passports with the visa, a procedure that “proved problematic during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Commission said.

Some EU countries have already started to switch to digital systems but not all accept online payments for the visa fees. 

When the new system will be in place, the Commission says, applicants will be able to check on the EU Visa Application platform whether they need a visa. If so, they will create an account, fill out the application form, upload the documents and pay. 

The platform will automatically determine which Schengen country will be responsible for the application and applicants will be able to check their status and receive notifications. Travellers will then be able to access the visa online, and if needed extend it too.

“Half of those coming to the EU with a Schengen visa consider the visa application burdensome, one-third have to travel long distance to ask for a visa. It is high time that the EU provides a quick, safe and web-based EU visa application platform for the citizens of the 102 third countries that require short term visa to travel to the EU,” said Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

“With some member states already switching to digital, it is vital the Schengen area now moves forward as one,” said Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas.

However, first-time applicants, people with biometric data that are no longer valid or with a new travel document, will still have to go to a consulate to apply.

Family members of citizens from the EU and the European Economic Area, as well as people who need assistance, will also be able to continue to apply on paper. 

The EU Visa Application platform will be used from third countries whose nationals must be in possession of a visa to enter the EU and is different from the ETIAS (European Travel Information Authorisation), which is currently under development.

The ETIAS will be used by non-EU nationals who are exempt from visas but who will need to apply for a travel authorisation prior to their trip. This will cost 7 euros and will be free for people below the age of 18 and above 70. 

Based on the discussion between the European Parliament and Council, the Commission could start developing the platform in 2024 and make it operational in 2026. EU countries will then have five years to phase out national portals and switch to the common online system. 

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VISAS

Which countries does Spain have working holiday visa agreements with?

The working holiday visa is perhaps the best option for young non-EU foreigners who want to take a gap year in Spain. But which countries are part of this reciprocal scheme, who's eligible and how do you apply?

Which countries does Spain have working holiday visa agreements with?

Getting a visa to temporarily live and work in Spain can be a tricky process if you’re a non-EU national, with everything from proof of high levels of income to medical insurance or specific job skills being required. For young third-country nationals, it’s often not possible to meet such requirements.

However, there are some young foreigners who can come to Spain for one year, travel around the country, learn Spanish and take on a part-time job thanks to reciprocal agreements that exist. 

Enter Spain’s working holiday visa, also called the Youth Mobility visa, a scheme that allows young people from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and South Korea to live and work in Spain for a one-year period.

READ ALSO: Worker, retiree or investor: What type of Spanish visa do I need?

What are the visa rules?

Keep in mind that your primary goal when applying for this visa should be to travel and live in Spain. Working should be a secondary motive to be able to earn money for your travels.

You will only be able to have a job for a total of six months during your one-year stay in Spain. You can also only work for one employer for a maximum of three months. This means that you will have to find a minimum of two different jobs during your stay.

The visa also allows you to visit other EU countries during your stay in Spain if you wish to travel within the bloc too.

Alternatively, you are also permitted to study or do an internship.

Note that the scheme is only for individuals. You cannot bring children along with you,  partners or spouses will have to apply for their visas separately. 

Who can apply?

Unfortunately, not everyone can apply for the working holiday visa for Spain. The Spanish government only has agreements with Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and South Korea, meaning this visa is only available to those from these five specific countries.

These agreements are reciprocal, meaning that young Spaniards can also get a working holiday visa to live in any one of the above countries for a specific amount of time.

Unfortunately, for those in Spain who want to have a gap year abroad, these reciprocal schemes are only available to Spanish citizens, not foreign residents in Spain.

Keep in mind though, your country (the country of which you are a national) may already have a working holiday visa agreement with one of these five countries.

For example, the UK has agreements with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan, so you may be able to apply on the basis that you’re a UK citizen.

Other than your nationality, one of the main prerequisites for the working holiday visa to Spain is age. You are only eligible to apply if you’re between the ages of 18 and 30 (or 35 for Canadians).

Keep in mind that only a certain number of these visas are available each year. For example, from 2023, there will be a total 2,000 available to those from New Zealand, while there are 3,400 available to those from Australia. Once this number has been reached, Spanish consulates will not grant anymore for that year and you must wait until the following year to apply again.

READ ALSO: Spain and New Zealand to increase number of working holiday visas

Visa pre-requisites

There are certain documents you must produce and certain criteria that you must meet in order for your visa to be approved. These include:

  • Having a return or onward ticket out of Spain
  • Having the necessary funds to support yourself during at least the first three months of your stay. (The amount required may be slightly different depending on which country you’re from. Canadians for example need to show they have savings of at least €1,857 or CAD 2,504.75).
  • Medical insurance
  • A police check or clear criminal record
  • A certificate showing you have completed at least two years of higher education
  • A basic level of Spanish (Be aware that this is not a requirement for those from all five countries, but it is a requirement for those from Australia and Japan. There is no mention of this requirement for those from Canada or New Zealand).
  • Some consulates may also require you to have proof of accommodation for at least the first week of your stay. This rule doesn’t apply across the board, but certain consulates such as the Spanish Consulate in Toronto, Canada will ask for it.

What types of jobs can I get?

You are eligible to apply for casual and temporary jobs. You should be aware that unemployment levels are very high in Spain (currently at 13.65 percent), so it will be difficult to compete against locals for jobs, who will always be given priority.

The key is to rely on your native language skills to find jobs that locals may not be able to do such as:

  • language teacher
  • waiter in a tourist restaurant
  • tour guide
  • receptionist in a hotel or resort
  • bar staff in nightclubs for tourists
  • nanny for families who want their kids to learn other languages

How to apply?

You can apply for Spain’s working holiday visa through your local Spanish consulate. Some consulates will allow you to apply online, while others require you to make an appointment and go in person.

You should be given a checklist from the consulate of all the specific documents they need from you, but the list above gives you a good idea of what you’ll need to show.

You will also need to pay the application fee. The amount varies depending on which country you’re applying from. For example, the fee for those from Canada is CAD 150. 

Make sure to check online or phone ahead to find out when the applications open for the year you want to apply, so that you don’t miss out.

Once your application has been granted and you have arrived in Spain, you will need to apply for a Número de Identidad de Extranjero or NIE within the first month, in order to be able to work.

You can apply for this by making an appointment at your local police station or Foreigner’s Office (Oficina de Extranjeros), filling out the necessary forms and presenting your visa. You may also need to show your other documents again such as private medical insurance. 

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