The Visa Information System (VIS)

What is the VISA Information System? (VIS)

Thanks to the Visa Information System (VIS) Schengen States can exchange visa data. The system consists of a central computer system connected to the national computer systems of both visa authorities in Schengen States and of consulates in non-EU countries. The computer systems at all border crossing points of Schengen States are also connected to the central infrastructure. The system processes data and decisions about applications for short-stay visas or visas to transit through the Schengen Area. Biometrics, mainly fingerprints, are used for identification in the system.

What is the purpose of the VIS?

The VIS is used to check whether an individual at the outside border of the Schengen Area or in Schengen State has a valid visa. It also contributes to the fight against visa fraud and identity theft. Moreover, the system accelerates the issuance of visas and facilitates the processing of visa applications.

How does the VIS work in practice?

Visa applicants address the competent authority, which takes a digital photograph and ten fingerprints that are stored in a central database for five years. Consequently, the data do not have to transmitted again for each new visa application.

All Schengen States use the VIS. The visa authorities in these countries can access the central database for all visa applications. The authorities in charge of identification and checks at the outside borders of the Schengen Areas can also consult the system, just like authorities dealing with asylum applications. In exceptional cases the VIS is also used to investigate offences. The VIS can thus only be consulted by authorised services to perform their specific duties.

VIS data are kept for five years, starting from the expiry data of a visa, the date that a negative decision is taken or the date that a decision to modify a visa is taken.

Who supervises the VIS?

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) supervises data processing in the central part of the VIS. The national supervisory authorities, including the Privacy Commission, supervise the legitimacy of data processing at national level, as well as the transfer of data to the central part of the system.

Which rights do citizens have with respect to the VIS?

All citizens have the right to be informed about their data in the VIS and can request the modification of incorrect data and/or the deletion of unlawfully registered data. To exercise those rights in Belgium, you can contact the Immigration Office at the following address: Home Affairs FPS, Immigration Office, Antwerpsesteenweg, 59 B / Chaussée d’Anvers 59b, 1000 Brussels. If the Immigration Office does not reply within 45 days, you can address the Privacy Commission for an intervention.