Right Of Entry – Visas for Family members of EU nationals… “shall be issued free of charge”
Directive 2004/58/EC – Article 5
What does this mean?
It means that by European law, family members of EU nationals holding valid passports must be given unobstructed freedom of movement throughout all European countries. This implies that the charging of fees constitutes to a financial obstruction and thus a contravention of the directive.
This is why Embassies provision a means for EU spouses and family members to obtain Schengen visas free of ‘any’ charges. An entirely free service should therefore be facilitated for any Family member of an EU national that can reasonably prove their relationship ( marriage / birth certificate, UK residence permit/letter etc.)
The French Embassy in London commenced its biometric visa programme on Monday 6th Feb 2012.
French Schengen Visa Applicants are now required to attend the Embassy’s outsourced visa center TLS to give their biometric data by way of fingerprints and a digital photograph. Visa applications via post are no longer an option, this was announced Janurary 2012 via the French Consulate’s website.
Initially there were some concerns over the impact that the new biometric visa process would have on the volume of visas able to be physically processed by the visa centre. The new visa centre process seems to have proven to be quite efficient but the actual numbers of people applying for Schengen visas has fallen year on year because of changes in UK immigration.
The abolition of the Working Holiday Maker visa, IGS/PSW and HSMP/Tier1 PBS schemes had a major impact on the number of would-be Schengen visa seeking migrants entering/remaining in the UK. This along with rising UK university fees, imposed quotas on international students, work permits (Tier 2) and resident permits in general has compounded the reduction in numbers of migrants. Such unpredictable developments raises the question of whether tendering for the Embassy’s outsourced business turned out to be as lucrative for TLS as was initially envisioned. Reported talks of the visa centre teaming up with the UKBA to aide with Biometric Residents Permit processing seems to have dissipated leaving the visa centre running at far less capacity than it was originally designed for.
A number of visa travel agencies have been re-introduced as accredited third party vendors permitted to file applications on behalf of applicants. They offer the opportunity for the applicant to have their application documentation pre-checked and submitted to the Embassy/Visa centre in advance. But the applicant still has to attend in person to register their fingerprints and have their digital photograph put on to the VIS (visa information system) database. It is estimated that, when unassisted 40 – 50% of applicants fail to provide application supporting documents that meet the criteria set out by the French Embassy.
Before the advent of compulsory biometrics for French Schengen Visas, agencies were able to submit applications on behalf applicants with just 24hrs notice at a time when the earliest Embassy appointments available to the general public were up to five weeks away. However, now their added value is questionable – the applicant must attend and an agency can only submit a pre-booked application a few hours prior to the applicant arriving. This gives little or no time to cancel the trip to London in the event of their application not being accepted.
By using a registered agency the applicant can benefit from the agency’s knowledge/experience to lessen the risk of an application being rejected and at seasonal peak times the Embassy/visa centre allows agencies to schedule appointments a few days earlier than are offered to the general public. But agencies must pay the Embassy/visa centre an additional £28 service charge per application for that privilege – this has to be offset to the applicant, along their own fee which usually ranges between £60 – £90 per application.
Arguably, agencies are perhaps more beneficial to the visa centre than to the applicant, not only in terms of the additional revenue that they generate but also because they greatly reduce visa centre’s administrative workload by filtering out applications that do not meet the stringent requirements. The agency has to enter each application form’s entire details online; photocopy all of the supporting documentation, the passport(s) data pages, all previous Schengen visas and pay upfront the Embassy and both of the visa centre fees.
SUMMARIZING THE GENERAL COST OF A TOURIST VISA FOR FRANCE
Embassy and Visa Centre fees (€60 + £24.14 respectively) per application
If using an agency endorsed by the Embassy/TLS, add £28 (visa centre premium service charge) + the agency fee (usually £60 – £90) per application
A Win, Win Situation – Not having to face a single applicant and receiving perfectly compiled applications
Keep a watch on this site for the progress of system and inform us of your Biometric Schengen Visa experiences.
June 2004 – European Union decided to implement the Visa Information System (VIS) to be in place by the end of 2006. It has taken somewhat longer to put in place than
originally envisaged but European Embassies around the globe have been steadily installing biometric data capture systems or have outsourced the job to the likes of TLS Contact, VFS Global and Worldbridge.
VIS holds the biometric data contained in every visa issued by the Schengen States. The biometric data consists of fingerprints of both hands and a photograph of the applicant. The data is stored electronically and accessible by all countries of the Schengen States (Excludes the UK/UKBA – see »
Brussels Refuses UK Access To Biometrics Super Database)
To arrange and appointment at the French Embassy’s TLS Visa Center, first read:
Biometric Visa Appointment Requirements