As of 2nd November 2015 all visa applicants will be required to provide their biometric data (fingerprints and a 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 2014 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 better protect visa applicants 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).
The following applicants shall be exempt from the requirment to give fingerprints:
(a) children under the age of 12;
(b) persons for whom fingerprinting is physically impossible.
(c) heads of State or government and members of a national government with accompanying spouses, and the members of their offical delegation when they are intivted by Member States' governments or by international organisations for an offical purpose; sovereigns and other senior members of a royal family, when they are invited by Member States' governments or by international organisations for an offical purpose.
The implementation of the VIS is part of the gradual worldwide deployment, which began in 2011.