The end of April may be the date when Grenadians would be able to travel through Europe without the hassle of having to obtain a Visa as part of the Schengen accord.
According to former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikolas Steele who now holds the Health portfolio, government has finally done the ratification of the Schengen Visa Waiver and was now waiting on word from the Council of the European Union for its implementation.
The senior government minister addressed the issue at a recent post-Cabinet Press briefing held at the Ministerial Complex and pointed out the reason for the delay in putting it into motion.
“It has to be translated into the 20 languages of the European Union to make sure that the wordings are correct. It has to then go to the Commission members from all of those member states for final approval; it is now at the Council for final approval,” he said.
“I would assume that this should happen soon as end of April. It all depends on how quickly the Council gets it back to us but we are on our end ready to go and I would expect no delays outside of regular administrative, the regular administrative process,” he added.
Steele told reporters that this Visa waiver with Europe would result in much easier and more affordable travel through several European countries for Grenadian nationals.
“At present one would have to travel to St Lucia if your port of entry is France or Switzerland or any of the others to get a visa. You would not require that anymore. You can travel the same way you travel to the UK now – just buy your ticket and travel,” he said.
However, he added that there will be a ninety day limit for persons travelling, either for business or just on vacation to Europe.
“In fact, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will begin I would think within the next couple of days to a week maximum, the public education part of it in terms of what we are entitled to do with respect to entry,” the Minister said.
“You would not be entitled to seek employment. It is quite possible that the ninety day starts from your first entry and you have a ninety day clearance and it is not each time that you enter you have ninety days. If you had entered previously within a ninety day period it would be the first count likely,” he remarked.
Steele gave assurances that the local Ministry of Foreign Affairs will provide all the necessary information to Grenadians on conditions to be met for the Visa Waiver.
Decisions on visa free access to the Schengen Area are based on bilateral negotiations and linked to the progress made by the countries concerned in implementing major reforms in areas such as the strengthening of the rule of law, combating of organised crime, corruption and illegal migration and improving of administrative capacity in border control and security of documents.
Under existing arrangements, citizens from some non-EU countries are required to hold a visa when travelling to the Schengen Area.
However, the EU has a common list of countries whose citizens must have a visa when crossing the external borders and a list of countries whose citizens are exempt from that requirement. The lists are set out in Regulation No 539/2001 and its successive amendments.
Generally, a short-stay visa issued by one of the Schengen States entitles its holder to travel throughout the 26 Schengen States for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Visas for visits exceeding that period remain subject to national procedures.
Britain is not part of the Schengen arrangement and maintains its own visa requirements.