As of 2nd November 2015 all visa applicants will be required to provide their biometric data (fingerprints and a digital photograph) when applying for a Schengen visa. It is normally a simple procedure that only takes a few minutes.
When applying for the first time, all applicants will have to appear in person at the VFS Global or at the Embassy. Biometric data, along with the data provided in the Schengen visa application form, will be recorded in the VIS database and stored for 59 months. If the fingerprints have been taken within the 59 months after 2 November 2015 and if usable, the fingerprints should not be retaken unless the applicant requires having their fingerprints retaken.
The VIS will contain all Schengen visa applications and the decisions taken by any Schengen State's consulate. This will facilitate visa application procedures and checks at external border of the European Union, as well as enhance security. The recourse to biometric technology will protect visa applicants better against identity theft and prevent false identifications, which in certain cases lead to a refusal of a visa or entry to a person who is entitled to enter. This will also allow to establish more easily the lawful use of previous visas and applicant’s travel history (e.g. when applying for a multiple-entry visa).
Exemptions from the fingerprinting requirement are provided for a limited number of applicants, including children under the age of 12 and persons for whom the collection of fingerprints is physically impossible. If travelling for official purposes, Head of State and members of the national government with other members taking part in the official delegation and spouses will also be exempted.
The implementation of the VIS is part of the gradual worldwide deployment, which began in 2011.