The new Schengen Code: what are the changes and how will it affect your international cultural practice?

The new Schengen Code: what are the changes and how will it affect your international cultural practice?

On 2 February 2020, the new Schengen Visa Code has come into force for everyone looking to apply for a short-stay Schengen Visa.
By Michiel van der Padt

The European Parliament and the European Council agreed on these changes in June 2019. The last time the Code was updated was in 2010. In the meantime, the number of Short-Stay Schengen Visa applications has risen by 57%, from 10.2 million to over 16 million per year.

The Dutch cultural and creative sector is very dependent on the mobility of international artists and cultural professionals, many of whom are third-country nationals subject to travel restrictions to the Schengen area. This article highlights the most important changes and how these might affect international cultural cooperation with individuals and groups from such countries.

In addition, we warmly recommend you to check our page on Visas and Staying in the Netherlands for more detailed information on applying for a short-stay Schengen Visa.

The most important changes which have come into effect (click to expand):

Visa applications can now be submitted up to 6 months before the intended travel instead of 3 months before the intended travel.

This gives a lot more flexibility in planning visits ahead in the future, as well as allowing artists and cultural professionals to calibrate the time needed for their visa application and other potential travel plans. Because your passport is held in custody during your Schengen Visa application process, you are inhibited from other travel during this period. Allowing 6 months before intended travel makes the application obligations more adaptable to your travelling and touring calendar.

The Visa fees have increased from €60 per adult applicant to €80 per adult applicant.

Furthermore, External Service Providers (ESTs) such as VFS Global are allowed to charge an additional fee of maximum €80, although this price is highly variable per country. According to the European Commission, the €60 fee no longer covered the processing costs of applications, and it emphasises that the visa costs are still relatively low compared to international standards. This increase will have consequences for the production costs of especially large groups coming to the Netherlands, as the Schengen visa can only be applied for per individual.

Multiple-entry visas with longer validity will be easier to obtain.

The new Schengen Code now prescribes a clear set of conditions that frequent travelers must fulfill before being able to apply for a multiple-entry Schengen Visa with a validity of 1, 2 or 5 years. These are the following conditions:

  • multiple-entry visa for 1 year: if you have received a Schengen Visa 3 times in the past 2 years and used it correctly;
  • multiple-entry visa for 2 years: if you have received a multiple-entry visa for 1 year in the past 2 years and used it correctly;
  • multiple-entry visa for 5 years: if you have received a multiple-entry visa for 2 years in the past 3 years and used it correctly.

Note that an airport transfer visa does not count. Using your visa correctly means not having overstayed your visa and not having had your previous visa applications rejected. Applicants that fulfill the conditions and want to apply for a multiple-entry visa must indicate this on their visa application form. Also note that individuals using a multiple-visa must still comply to the 90/180 day rule. For more information, check out our page on Visas and Staying in the Netherlands.

These clearer rules on the availability of multiple-entry visas could turn out very positively for frequent travelers within the cultural sector. Fewer application procedures will mean fewer uncertainties in traveling schedules as well as lower costs in the long term.

Applying through an External Service Provider (ESP) is required in countries where Dutch embassies and consulates have outsourced Schengen Visa services.

Although this was already previously encouraged whenever possible, it is now no longer possible to apply for a Schengen Visa at an embassy or consulate if services are provided by ESPs in the same country. This only applies to the short-stay Schengen Visa and not for long-stay visas or residence and work permits. This is part of a trend of increasing outsourcing of consular services to ESPs by the Netherlands. An apparent disadvantage of this is the additional processing fees charged by ESPs. Also, ESPs are usually less aware of artistic and cultural events in the Netherlands, focusing solely on the thoroughness of the application and the supporting documents.

The Netherlands will increasingly digitise the application process for short-stay Schengen visas.

The New Schengen Code allows for Schengen countries to digitise the application procedure. Although the Netherlands is digitising the application form and the submission of additional documents, the necessity to provide biometric information and hand in one’s passport will continue to require individuals to travel to an embassy, consulate or ESP to submit their Schengen Visa application for the near future.

To conclude, the new Schengen Code increases the necessity for visiting artists and cultural professionals and inviting organisations in the Netherlands to thoroughly plan and prepare their visits. This because procedures are becoming more streamlined and application costs have increased. However, the new Code also provides more time and maneuverability for inviting organisations and visiting artists: there is a larger time-frame within which applications may be submitted and better opportunities for obtaining a multiple-entry visa. Overall, we hope that the new Schengen Code will increase the probability of successful application, benefiting the international exchange of arts and culture between the Netherlands and the rest of the world.

For more information on how and where to apply for a short-stay Schengen visa, please visit our Visas and Staying in the Netherlands page.

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