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Updated August 2023
The Schengen Area, comprised of 27 nations, holds the distinction of being the world’s largest visa-free region, meaning travelers can move without the need for any border control. This zone attracts a substantial influx of visitors for a wide range of purposes, such as tourism, business, official visits, and medical trips.
In an effort to maximize efficiency and embolden security measures, the Schengen visa process has incorporated the use of biometric data in its systems. Read on as Wego delves into how your biometric data is obtained, processed and stored when you travel to a Schengen country.
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The collection of biometric information has been a part of the Schengen visa application for the past few years, with the Visa Information System (VIS) having been deployed to all Schengen countries in November 2015. It is an integral step in ensuring the security of the Schengen area against serious issues like identity fraud, terrorism and other antisocial elements.
For more information about the Schengen Visa and its requirements and procedures, we recommend perusing our dedicated article.
Schengen biometric visa
The Schengen Biometric Visa System, also known as the Visa Information System (VIS), serves as a platform for Schengen States to exchange data related to short-stay visas. The primary goals of the VIS are to streamline the visa application process, facilitate checks at external borders, and bolster security measures.
The VIS operates using a three-part structure: a centralized database, a national interface within each Schengen State, and a communication framework that links the central database with the state-specific interfaces. This interconnected setup enables competent authorities in Schengen States to efficiently manage a range of visa-related information, including applications, approvals, rejections, cancellations, revocations, and extensions.
At the heart of the Visa Information System (VIS) are two key components: the VIS database equipped with an alphanumerical search capability, and the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). The AFIS rapidly matches fingerprints provided with the database, merging data access and fingerprint analysis to facilitate efficient visa processing while enhancing overall security measures.
Schengen biometric number
The Schengen visa number or schengen biometric number also referred to as the visa sticker number, contains crucial details regarding the visa and its terms. It provides information regarding the specific countries where the visa is valid, specifies the visa type, its duration of validity, and the number of entries allowed. The Schengen visa number can be found on the top right corner of the visa sticker.
To learn more about the Schengen visa number, please visit our dedicated article:
Schengen biometric data
Biometric data recorded for the Schengen Visa Information System are:
- the alphanumeric data contained in the Schengen visa application form
- the digital photograph
- the 10 fingerprints of the applicant taken flat
Note that the alphanumeric data includes details like the applicant’s name, nationality, place of residence, occupation, the travel document’s number, the type of visa requested, the main destination and the duration of the intended stay, the intended border of first entry, the details of the inviting person etc
Who needs to provide Schengen biometric data?
It is mandatory for all applicants to register their biometric data with the VIS in order to travel to Schengen countries. First-time visa applicants will always have to appear in person when lodging the application in order to provide their biometric data, which is photographs and fingerprints.
The photograph can be digitally taken at the time of the application or scanned from an existing one. However, this applies only for the Schengen visa applications at one of the VFS Centres.
Please note that a person will not be issued a Schengen visa if he/she fails to provide biometric data. There are, however, In accordance with Article 13(7) of the Visa Code several categories of citizens, who do not have to provide this data:
- children under the age of 12;
- persons for whom fingerprinting is physically impossible. If the fingerprinting of fewer than 10 fingers is possible, the maximum number of fingerprints shall be taken. If the impossibility is temporary, the applicant shall be required to provide the fingerprints at the following application;
- heads of State or government and members of a national government with accompanying spouses, and the members of their official delegation when they are invited by Member States’ governments or by international organisations for an official purpose;
- sovereigns and other senior members of a royal family, when they are invited by a Member State government or international organisation for an official purpose.
Schengen biometric validity
Your biometric information will have a validity period of 59 months (5 years) within the VIS database. This implies that subsequent to your initial visa application, there will be no need to personally submit your biometric data when you apply for a Schengen visa, as it remains accessible for the specified duration.
Please note that the start date for the validity of your biometric information is
- from the expiry date of the visa, if a visa has been issued;
- on the new expiry date of the visa, if a visa has been extended;
- on the date the negative decision for visa application is taken by the visa authorities.
Schengen biometric requirement
Today, many countries issue biometric passports, which is a traditional passport with an embedded microprocessor chip that holds biometric data for identity authentication. However, even if you hold a biometric passport, you will be required to attend in person to register your biometric data when applying for a Schengen visa.
Schengen biometric requirement through ETIAS
ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System), which is set to be operational in 2024, is a form of electronic travel authorization. ETIAS is not a visa, but rather a form of a security check or visa waiver. It aims to strengthen European security by screening travelers before they enter the Schengen Area.
Recently, the EU has made it clear, amidst several misinformation rumours, that the applicants who will be applying for ETIAS will not be required to provide any biometric data.
For more information about ETIAS, we recommend perusing our dedicated article on the topic.
Schengen biometric fees
There are no additional fees for the collection of biometric data for the Schengen visa application, as it is considered to be a part of the application process.