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Europe—Schengen touring visa: A new one year-long visa in the making

The European Commission is proposing a visa to allow third-country nationals to travel and stay in the Schengen area for up to 12 months without requiring full residency.

The current Schengen rules allow third-country nationals to enter and stay in the Schengen area for up to three months in a six month period (the “90/180-day rule”) either using a Schengen visa or through a visa waiver program. The aim of these rules is to provide free movement within the Schengen area while ensuring security.

It is not possible for third-country nationals to stay longer in the Schengen area unless they take up full residency in one of the member states. The 90/180-day rule may have been appropriate when the Schengen agreement was first initiated by the five original member states—France, Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg, and the Netherlands. However, today the 90/180-day rule can cause problems for frequent visitors to the Schengen area; for example:

  • Performing artists may be prevented from performing in shows because they have to leave the Schengen area after 90 days. They intend to tour around in Europe and not take up full residency, thus limiting their stays to 90 days.
  • Frequent business travelers constantly count the stamps on their passports to prevent overstays and must postpone upcoming travel if they reach the 90-day limit.
  • Executive managers with a pan-European function travel all around Europe for their jobs, but continue living with their families abroad (outside the Schengen area). Under the current rules, they would need to take up full residency in the Schengen area to obtain a residence permit that allows them to travel freely.

Acknowledging these issues, the European Commission is proposing the establishment of a new “touring visa.” This is a completely new visa type called Schengen visa type T. This visa type is without precedent, and would significantly alter Schengen legislation. The visa would be open to all third-country nationals who plan to stay in two or more member states for more than 90 days, but no more than a year, provided the applicant does not intend to stay for more than 90 days in any 180 day period in the same member state. The European Commission is also proposing the possibility to extend the visa for up to two years.

What is the status of the proposed new visa?
The European Parliament’s Committee of Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs (LIBE) has made some amendments to the European Commission’s proposal that limit the scope of the new touring visa to performing artists, elite sports persons, and business-related travelers, rather than all third-country nationals. If these amendments are accepted, it would change the original idea behind the proposal, which was to create a visa that allows travelers (including tourists) to tour around Europe. As a result, the LIBE also suggests adapting processes, durations, and supporting documents to support these amendments.

Next steps
The European Parliament’s LIBE committee adopted a report with amendments, which is tabled for the plenary meeting of the European Parliament. Tripartite meetings (“trilogues”) between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council will now need to take place. The duration of the trilogues depends on the topic. Since the touring visa is linked to the entry and exit system and the recasting of Schengen regulations, many changes may occur at once.

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