The Visa Information System (VIS) allows Schengen States to exchange visa data. VIS connects consulates in non-EU countries and all external border crossing points of Schengen States. It processes data and decisions relating to applications for short‑stay visas to visit, or to transit through, the Schengen Area.
The system helps avoid ‘visa shopping’, supports documenting and prevents irregular migration. It can perform biometric matching, primarily of fingerprints, for identification and verification purposes and assists the authorities protecting the internal security of Member States.
The Visa Information System provides the following benefits:
- clearer and quicker procedures for travellers requiring a visa to enter the Schengen Area;
- security and protection for travellers using biometric technology, helping to ensure the identification of people and prevent identity theft;
- consular cooperation and consultation between national visa authorities;
- reduced risk of ‘visa shopping’ and fraud;
- identification of people who may not, or may no longer, fulfil the conditions to enter or stay in the Schengen Area;
- support for checks at the external borders and inside the Schengen Area Member States;
- support with the processing of asylum applications.
To better respond to evolving security and migratory challenges as well as improving the EU's external border management, the European Commission has proposed the upgrade of the Visa Information System. The proposed changes expand the scope of VIS by adding long stay-visas and residence permits to the system. They will also allow for more thorough background checks on visa applicants; close security information gaps through better information exchange between Member States and ensure full interoperability with other EU-wide databases.