Starting in July this year, Romania and Bulgaria will have access to the Visa Information System, but only for reading, according to a decision taken by the European Commission on Friday, after both countries have successfully completed a series of technical tests required for connection to the system. Full access will become possible once the two countries are fully integrated into the Schengen area.
The visa information system is the database that connects border guards at the EU’s external borders with Member States’ consulates around the world. Read-only access means that these Member States will be able to access information that already exists in the system, but will not be able to enter new information, the EU executive explains in a press release.
Access to the Visa Information System means that Romania and Bulgaria will be able to see a visa history of an applicant, which will make it easier for them to process visa applications. This will also allow Bulgarian and Romanian border guards to verify the validity and authenticity of Schengen visas issued by other Member States by comparison with data stored in the Visa Information System, helping to prevent fraud and combat serious crime and terrorism, thus increasing security in the EU.
Read access to the Visa Information System will be required to manage the Entry / Exit System, which is expected to become operational in the first half of 2022. Full access to the Visa Information System will become possible once Romania and Bulgaria are fully integrated into the Schengen area.
The Commission reiterated its call on the Council to take the necessary measures for Romania and Bulgaria to become part of the area without internal border controls under the Strategy for a Stronger and More Resilient Schengen Area, presented in June this year.