Verifying a secure visa system for the Schengen Area
The biggest challenge for the EU visa management system is to provide secure entrance of non-EU visitors throughout the Schengen Area.
As the most visited region in the world, Europe welcomed over 670 million travellers in 2017 alone. Since its creation in 1995, the Schengen Area has allowed more than 500 million citizens in 31 European countries to travel freely without requesting a specific visa for each country. The Schengen Area has 11,000km of external land borders, 43,000km of external sea borders, 597 airports and 3,500 consular posts around the world.
The biggest challenge for the EU visa management system is to provide secure entrance of non-EU visitors throughout the Schengen Area. IDEMIA’s Biometric Matching System (BMS) is able to identify applicants by matching fingerprints to identities, therefore establishing and verifying the validity of visa applications.
A continent-wide system
In order to harmonise the EU visa management throughout the Schengen Area, in 2006 the European Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs implemented the European Visa Information System (VIS). VIS is at the core of the application process to the Schengen Area, enabling member states to store and search alphanumeric and biometric data relating to visa applicants.
Implemented by Accenture and IDEMIA, the VIS system went live in October 2011. It has since experienced an increase of usage by consulates in non-EU countries and external border crossing points of Schengen states.
In 2013, the EU-LISA agency was created to take over the operational responsibility of the VIS from the European Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs. In 2016, a new consortium composed of IDEMIA, Accenture and Atos was awarded the renewal of the maintenance contract for a duration of four years.
A reliable EU visa application and issuance system
IDEMIA’s BMS ensures secure visa applications by confirming that each person is issued only one for the Schengen Area. The BMS embeds the innovative IDEMIA product MBSS®, a multi-biometric search engine designed for high modularity and availability, combined with unparalleled speed and matching accuracy.
Consulates of Schengen member states around the world collect fingerprints, photographs and alphanumerical data from visa applicants over the age of 12, and record this information in the secure VIS database. The system performs a 1:N fingerprint matching, which compares the visa holder’s fingerprints against those stored in the database, thus ensuring that there are no duplicate visa applications.
Accurate checks at the border
BMS also allows the authentication of visa holders when they cross Schengen borders. At the border post, the visa holder’s fingerprints are captured and checked against the biometric data stored in the system (one to one matching). If the comparison is successful, the visa holder is allowed to enter the Schengen Area.