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The European Union Visa Information System
) is a database containing information, including biometrics, on visa applications by Third Country Nationals requiring a visa to enter the Schengen group
The Schengen Area comprises the territories of twenty-five European countries that have implemented the Schengen Agreement signed in the town of Schengen, Luxembourg, in 1985...
The system was established in June 2004 by the Council
The Council of the European Union is the institution in the legislature of the European Union representing the executives of member states, the other legislative body being the European Parliament. The Council is composed of twenty-seven national ministers...
In European Union law, a decision is a legal instrument which is binding upon those individuals to which it is addressed. They are one of three kinds of legal instruments which may be effected under EU law which can have legally binding effects on individuals. Decisions may be addressed to member...
VIS is rolled out on a regional basis, starting at the end of 2009 with north African and middle eastern countries.
New applicants for a VIS Schengen visa have to travel to the nearest EU consulate to give their biometric information (10 fingerprints and a facial image), which is then entered into the system and remains valid for five years. Information is centrally stored in a database in Strasbourg (with a back-up site in Austria) allowing checks to be made at border crossing points that the person holding the biometric visa is the person who applied for it.
Two types of search are possible: verification and identification. Verification consists of a check, carried out by the separate Biometric Matching System (BMS) that the fingerprints scanned at the border crossing point correspond to those associated with the biometric record attached to the visa (duration approx. 2 seconds). Identification consists of comparing the fingerprints taken at the border crossing post with the contents of the entire database (duration up to 10 minutes).
All Schengen and Schengen-associated states will implement the system at all national consulates and official EU border crossing points within 3 years of the system going live. It is expected to contain some 70 million biometric records at full capacity.
VIS aims to prevent visa fraud and visa shopping by applicants between EU member states and to facilitate checks at external border crossing points and within territory of member states, assisting in the identification of listed persons. The bodies having access to VIS are: Consulates, police authorities from member states and Europol. Transfer of data to third countries or international organizations may take place only in an exceptional case of urgency, with the consent of the member state that entered the data.