Select Committee on European Scrutiny Fourteenth Report




COM(01) 577

Draft Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 1683/95 laying down a uniform format for visas.

Legal base:Article 62(2)(b)(iii)EC; consultation; qualified majority of participating States
Document originated:9 October 2001
Forwarded to the Council:10 October 2001
Deposited in Parliament:25 October 2001
Department:Home Office
Basis of consideration:EM of 8 November 2001
Previous Committee Report:None
To be discussed in Council:Date not yet set
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Not cleared; further information requested


  3.1  Regulation (EC) No 1683/95 which lays down a uniform format for visas is directly applicable under the laws of all the Member States. It has applied since 3 August 1995. The UK has been issuing uniform format visas since September 1996.

  3.2  Following the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States, the Justice and Home Affairs Council of 20 September and the European Council of 21 September emphasised that the European Union should take immediate action to improve the existing security standards of travel documents.

The document

  3.3  The proposal gives implementing powers to the Uniform Format Visa Comitology Committee to adopt technical measures for two purposes. The first, in the words of the Commission's Explanatory Memorandum, is for "the integration of a photograph produced according to high security standards, in order to establish a more reliable link between the holder and the visa format". The second is to allow the possibility of changing the colours of the visa format, "if an urgent need occurs to counteract forgeries."

The Government's view

  3.4  The UK has decided to participate in this measure. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Angela Eagle) tells us that the Regulation would not require amendment or repeal of primary legislation or of the immigration rules; it could be implemented by administrative means.

  3.5  She says, however, that there would be financial implications if the new standards were to include requirements for new issuing technologies, continuing:

"The Government is unable to give an accurate assessment of such financial implications until it knows details of any new requirements but provision of appropriate hardware and software to entry clearance issuing posts could be expected to cost over £1 million. Entry clearance operational running costs would also rise since the process for each visa issued would include the scanning or taking of a photograph and its subsequent manipulation. As part of the entry clearance full cost recovery regime this could lead to an increase in visa fees."


  3.6  We are surprised that, even after the 11 September terrorist attacks, it is considered necessary to add a photograph to a visa which is presumably attached to a passport already containing a photograph. We ask the Minister if she can justify the duplication, especially as it may result in an increase in visa fees. We also ask her to explain why the UK has decided to participate in this measure.

  3.7  The document will remain under scrutiny until we have her response.

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