What is the Visa Information System (VIS)?

All governments that have a visa policy use some type of technology to process the data that is collected for each applicant.

The European Union (EU) uses the Visa Information System (VIS). It is a large-scale program that helps immigration authorities to reinforce border measures within the EU and Schengen States.

What is the VIS?

The Visa Information System is the technology that the European Union (EU) uses to collect and manage data related to short-stay visas and transit permits through the Schengen area.

The VIS allows all Schengen States to share and exchange visa-related information, through the same secure central database.

What Is the Purpose of the Visa Information System?

The Visa Information System is used by the EU for a number of reasons.

The different functions of the VIS technology work together to strengthen the EU visa policy and prevent unlawful behavior across Schengen borders.

Faster and more accurate border control

The information provided by the VIS allows immigration officials to quickly identify passengers as the rightful holder of their visa.

Fast access to visa applicant data saves time for border authorities, as well as travelers.

Prevent identity theft

The official information that is stored in the VIS protects travelers from identity theft.

The technology is able to screen passengers and detect if someone is attempting to travel using another person’s passport or identification document.

Fight against visa fraud

The Visa Information System helps to prevent abuse of the EU visa policy, by storing a record of all Schengen visa applications.

Fraudulent acts such as “visa shopping”⁠—where applicants attempt to apply for another visa after already being rejected⁠—are prevented through the VIS⁠.

Help with asylum applications

Applications for asylum in an EU State can be managed through the VIS.

The system makes it possible to examine each applicant and easily decide which nation is responsible for managing their request.

Enhance security measures

The VIS helps to prevent terrorist offenses, as well as other serious criminal activities.

The program helps border control officials to detect and investigate possible criminal behavior within the EU.

How does the VIS work?

The Visa Information System stores various data related to visa holders, including:

  • Digital photograph
  • Personal details
  • Fingerprints

This information is then used by border control to assess travelers as they enter and exit the Schengen area.

A 10-digit fingerprint scan is taken for each passenger and stored on the VIS. 

Frequent travelers do not have to give new fingerprint scans every time they apply for a new visa. The data is stored on the VIS for a 5-year period, so the scans can be re-used for future applications.