Chinese to Schengen countries to submit biometric data
Updated: 2015-09-07 08:09
By Xu Lin(China Daily)
The European Union's delegation to China recently announced that Schengen nations will require Chinese visa applicants to provide biometric data beginning Oct 12.
First-timers will have to apply in person at consulates or external service providers to give fingerprints and a digital photo.
The Schengen Area's Visa Information System requires biometric data. The VIS handles all Schengen-visa applications and contains all member states' decisions about entry.
The Schengen Area refers to 26 European countries that have exempted visa and other border controls among shared borders.
"Taking fingerprints is nothing to be scared about," says the German embassy in Beijing's visa section deputy director, Patricia van de Water.
"It's a simple procedure that only takes a few minutes. We have been taking fingerprints for our national visas since 2013, and it has been very smooth and familiar. For frequent travelers, it's very convenient."
The VIS will simultaneously begin operating in all Schengen countries' consulates in China, Japan, South Korea and Mongolia.
Biometric data and information provided on the visa application forms will be stored in the system's central database for 59 months.
Successful applicants won't need to appear in person for subsequent solicitations to Schengen nations until the data expires.
Children younger than 12 and people who are physically unable to provide fingerprints are exempt.
All visas issued before Oct 12 will remain valid until the expiration dates printed on them. Visas printed with "VIS" status indicate biometrics have been collected. "VIS-0" means they haven't.
Chinese tourism website Ilvxing.com's CEO Qin Qing suggests Chinese who'll travel within the next three months apply ahead of the new rules' implementation.
He points out some countries, such as France, the Netherlands and Germany, have changed policies so Chinese can apply at any of their respective consulates, regardless of residence.
Biometric data not only facilitate visa applications and checks but also enhance security, authorities claim. They protect against identity theft and false identifications, they say.
Many Chinese share the same names, and many were even born on the same dates in the same provinces. Misidentifications may delay visa applications or even lead to denials.
"We offer one of the best visa services in China, and we have worked very hard to achieve this," van de Water says.
"I'm very proud to say that we process all Schengen visa applications in 48 hours ... even in high seasons."
She says 97 percent of Schengen visa applications are successful.
China is unique in that more than half the applications are from business travelers.
"We issue more long-term Schengen visas to frequent travelers," she says, noting that the number doubled last year.
"We've updated our homepage with more detailed information. And it's customer-oriented, easy to read."
Germany issued nearly 330,000 visas to Chinese in 2014.
From January to July, Germany's five visa sections in China received a record total of 250,000 applications, a 26 percent increase over the same period last year.