Visa Information System (VIS)
The Visa Information System (VIS) is a large scale IT system which will contain information, including photographs and fingerprint data about visa applicants. The EDPS issued an opinion on the establishment of the VIS in 2005 (pdf) and another one about the access of law enforcement authorities to the VIS in 2006 (pdf).
The information will be collected by consulates in the different Member States and then transferred to a central database, VIS, where it will be accessible by all Member States. In principle, the rolling out of the VIS should start in 2009.
One of the main purposes of the database is to fight “visa shopping”. Citizens from more than 120 countries need visas to enter the EU. In the current situation, an applicant who has been rejected by one country’s consulate could continue applying to other consulates. Once VIS is in place, this will not be possible. Information on previous applications and reasons for rejection will be available through the new system. The inclusion of fingerprint and photograph information is intended to allow border checks to verify whether the person presenting the visa is in fact the person to whom it was issued.
The data protection supervision will be the responsibility of the EDPS at the level of the Central Unit and of the Member States’ data protection authorities at national level. The EDPS and data protection authorities will jointly ensure coordination of that supervision.