European Union: EU Council seeks to expand grounds for suspension of visa-free travel

The Council of the European Union has proposed a measure to make it easier to suspend visa-waiver agreements.

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What does the change mean? The proposal would expand the grounds for suspending visa-waiver agreements with non-EU countries and accelerate the process. The measure would apply to all countries that currently enjoy Schengen visa-free agreements, but is primarily aimed at prospective visa-free agreements with Georgia, Kosovo, Ukraine and Turkey.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Visa exemption for stays of up to 90 days in the Schengen area for business or tourism.
  • Who is affected: Third-country national visitors traveling to the Schengen area under a visa exemption. Ireland and the United Kingdom are not part of the Schengen area and do not participate in common EU visa policies.
  • Impact on processing times: Should a country be suspended from a visa-waiver agreement, those nationals would need to apply for visas before travel.
  • Next steps: The measure must pass the European Parliament.

Background: The proposal would strengthen the mechanism for an EU member state to suspend a country from visa-free agreements. The grounds for suspension would include a substantial increase in illegal migration from the participating country, lack of cooperation on taking back irregular migrants, or increased risks to the internal security of an EU member state. The European Commission would monitor whether criteria are being met and report annually to the European Parliament and Council.

The European Commission has recently recommended extending Schengen visa-free travel to nationals of Georgia, Kosovo and Ukraine. An agreement with Turkey to resettle refugees in exchange for the visa exemption currently hinges on Turkey meeting remaining goals, namely narrowing its terrorism laws to not include political activists.

BAL Analysis: The new measure may further delay visa-free Schengen travel for Turkish nationals and would allow existing agreements to be more easily subject to suspension.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact uk@balglobal.com.

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