Abu Dhabi: All diplomatic missions of the Schengen member states in the UAE will start recording biometric data of people applying for visas to their respective countries from October 2.

Schengen visa applicants have to undergo biometric scans to record 10 fingerprints and a facial image as part of the visa application process. This new requirement is part of efforts to link the diplomatic missions of Schengen states with the Visa Information System (VIS) introduced by the European Commission.

The French Embassy in Abu Dhabi, one of the Schengen diplomatic missions, said it had already started recording biometrics of Schengen visa applicants.

“We started it in Dubai two years ago and in Abu Dhabi about a year ago,” Alain Azouaou, the French ambassador to the UAE told Gulf News yesterday.

Currently, 26 European countries are Schengen members and many of them have diplomatic missions in the UAE.

The Schengen cooperation agreement took its name from the town of Schengen in Luxembourg, where it was signed for the purpose of ensuring the free movement of persons and goods between the member states.

All European Union (EU) member states except five countries — UK, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus — and four non-EU countries namely Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are part of the Schengen area.

The remaining 22 member states are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

All diplomatic missions of Schengen states in the UAE should start recording biometrics of visa applicants from October 2, Max Bjuhr, the Swedish ambassador to the UAE, told Gulf News.

Ilkka-Pekka Simila, Finland’s ambassador to the UAE and a spokesperson for the Swiss Embassy in Abu Dhabi, also confirmed that their missions will follow suit.

The Visa Information System (VIS), which was commissioned by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Home Affairs, allows Schengen States to exchange visa data for short-stay or transit visas by connecting their diplomatic missions in non-EU countries and all external border crossing points across the region.

The system currently processes an average of 4,000 visa applications per day with up to 11,000 applications handled on a ‘peak’ day.

The system has processed approximately 1,000,000 visa applications, according to media reports.

Since October 2011, the diplomatic representations of the Schengen member states have been gradually connected to the Visa Information System (VIS) region by region, in a process that is to be completed within two years.

Over 400 million Europeans currently enjoy passport-free travel across the Schengen area.

The Schengen Agreement was integrated in the EU through the Amsterdam Treaty.