IT system cuts visa abuse across Schengen Area

An IT system integrating disparate national border controls has reduced visa abuse across the borderless Schengen Area of continental Europe

An IT system integrating disparate national border controls has reduced visa abuse across the borderless Schengen Area of continental Europe.

The Visa Information System (VIS) is used by the European Commission (EC) to enable states in the Schengen Area to share information in near real time.

The Schengen Area, conceived in 1985, includes almost all European Union (EU) states apart from the UK and Ireland. The Schengen Treaty enables people to move freely between signatory countries, once granted entry. As a result, it is important visa applications are properly checked by the country that receives the application. Sharing data between nations is critical to the process.

In the past a practice known as visa shopping was common. This happened when foreign nationals, rejected in their attempts to gain entry to one country, got in by gaining entry to another and crossing borders. This was made possible when the reasons for their rejection from the nation were not shared with others, a loophole the VIS system was designed to close.

The VIS system was created by IT services firm Steria and uses hardware from HP. It is built on an Oracle database.

It links the different border agencies of all the Schengen states to a central system to ensure all information is shared and applications can be cross-checked.

Since the implementation of VIS in October 2011 it has processed over one million visa applications, with as many as 11,000 applications processed in a day.

Francois Enaud, general manager of Groupe Steria SCA said: "The project demonstrates that, although challenging, large-scale, multi-stakeholder, integrated IT systems can be successfully implemented and delivered, allowing multiple countries to work together smoothly and easily from the outset. 

"We already work with the governments of many European countries, but this contract has proved our ability to help these governments work together efficiently.”

Speaking to Computer Weekly in July about a business analytics software for a cross-border, data-sharing initiative in Europe to fight gun crime, Joanne Taylor, director of SAS’s public security unit, said these initiatives can have huge benefits but are often difficult to implement due to red tape.

“We have shown that the technology is not the barrier. The barrier is now the fact that it needs legislative backing from the EU, saying that countries have to use it.”

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