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Hi, I’m Anna

I am Russian. After graduating from my programme to qualify as a teacher, I applied for a visa to spend some time with my boyfriend Felix in Germany.[1] We hadn’t seen each other for a long time.

The visa application was a pretty intense process. I had to give them copies of my identity and travel documents– and then travelled to the embassy to provide fingerprints, and a photograph. I also had to provide information about Felix.[2]

Discover my story


[1]Citizens of 104 countries are required to obtain a visa before visiting the EU. Everyone who applies for one of these short-stay Schengen visas is registered in the Visa Information System (VIS).

Under the EU’s interoperability regulations, data on visa applicants will also be stored in the Central Information Repository (CIR) and linked to multiple other information systems, with purposes ranging from asylum applications to criminal records.

[2]The EU is planning to transform the short-stay visa application process by introducing an algorithmic profiling tool, which would influence decisions about who gets a visa based on a person’s nationality, age or country of residence and how these are perceived to correlate with a risk of staying in the EU longer than permitted.

The same system will also be introduced for citizens of visa-exempt countries, who will have to apply for a “travel authorisation” once the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) comes into use. ETIAS will gather and analyze data for the advanced “verification of potential security or irregular migration risks”, to facilitate border checks, improve efficiency and harmonize “risk assessment of third country nationals”. The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights has expressed its concerns about the discriminatory potential of these systems.

A leak of diplomatic cables reveals there are also secret agreements among EU member states to vet visa applicants of specific nationalities, based on historic colonial ties.

For more information, see:

Statewatch (2020), Automated suspicion: The EU’s new travel surveillance initiatives

Home Office drops ‘racist’ algorithm from visa decisions – BBC News.

European Data Protection Supervisor Opinion 3/2017, EDPS Opinion on the Proposal for a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).

View footnotes

Travel to Europe

When I got on the plane, they scanned my passport, then let me board.



As part of the EU’s efforts to control irregular migration, penalties were introduced under the Carriers’ Sanctions Directive in 2001 for travel companies (such as bus, airline and rail companies) that transport people who travel without the right documents.

An important consequence of the penalties transport companies face for providing services to people without adequate papers to travel is that people who are unable to obtain a visa or travel authorisation have fewer ways to travel safely to Europe, and must resort to crossing the EU’s land or sea borders irregularly in dangerous conditions.

IOM’s Missing Migrant Project recorded more than 18,500 migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea between 2014 and 2019.

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Passport scan

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The Visa Information System (VIS) (currently being amended) stores information about applications for short-stay Schengen visas – those that have been accepted, refused or withdrawn.[1] Once it is operational, carriers (airlines, ferry operators, rail companies, etc.) will have access to the VIS (and its sister database, the European Travel Authorisation System (ETIAS)) to determine if a traveller has a valid visa or travel authorisation, and therefore whether they can be allowed to board.[2]



[1]In 2018, the European Commission proposed reforms to the VIS. In December 2020, the German Council Presidency and the European Parliament entered into a provisional agreement on the main elements of the revised legislation, which include extending the VIS to long-stay visas and residence permits, effectively encompassing the data of virtually all foreigners applying to or residing regularly in the EU, and ensuring that it is interlinked with other databases for security and migration control purposes.

[2]Under planned changes to the Visa Information System (VIS) and the European Travel Authorisation System (ETIAS) (which will apply to all travellers from visa-free countries) two of the many databases that are part of the interoperability framework, travel companies will be given access to the system’s central databases to check if passengers have a valid visa or travel authorisation. They will have to enter passengers’ name and travel document details into an online portal, by scanning their passport or travel document. The VIS or ETIAS databases will then respond “OK” or “NOT OK”.

For more information, see Statewatch (2020), Automated suspicion: The EU’s new travel surveillance initiatives

To continue Anna’s journey
please click on the passport

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At the border

When I disembarked in Germany, a German border official scanned my travel documents and took my fingerprints.


Checking passport

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The Entry-Exit System (EES) is one of the underlying migration databases within the interoperability framework. It will register all border crossings by non-EU citizens and automatically alert national authorities when a person’s visa or travel authorization expires, if they have not left the territory. It will store fingerprints, facial images, biographic data, and information on travel documents.



The Entry-Exit System is expected to be fully operational in 2022.

To continue Anna’s journey
please click on the passport

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In Europe

I spent a wonderful summer with Felix. We mostly spent time together and with his family.

I decided to stay until October to celebrate our anniversary together. I knew it meant I would overstay my visa by a few weeks, but I didn’t think there would be any harm, since I still planned to leave.


Visa expiration

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Since Anna is registered in the Entry-Exit System (EES), German authorities are automatically notified when her visa expires, when she is still on the territory.


To continue Anna’s journey
please click on the visa

Arrest and detention

At the airport on my way home to Moscow, the border official says she sees an alert that I overstayed. She tells me that this is a serious matter and asks me a lot of questions about my stay in Germany.

Afterwards, I was detained for several hours. They said I wouldn’t be able to come back to Germany for five years because I hadn’t respected the terms of my visa.


Travel ban for 5 years

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Anna is issued a travel ban effective for five years and is registered in the Schengen Information System (SIS).

The SIS supports law enforcement and judicial cooperation within the Schengen area, issuing security alerts on people and objects crossing borders – for instance for people with arrest warrants, on terror watch lists, and (as of November 2018), people who have been issued return decisions or entry bans.



Proposed changes from 2018 to the EU’s directive governing deportations and detention (recast Return Directive), would allow entry bans to be issued even when a person’s irregular status is detected during exit checks while leaving the territory.

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Return to Russia

I was devastated when they issued me an entry ban. It bars me from visiting Felix in Germany, or entering any other country in the Schengen Area, for five years. What will I tell Felix?

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