Bulgaria and Romania gained read-only access to the European Union's Visa Information System (VIS), the bloc's agency in charge of the operation of the system said on Tuesday.
Croatia, currently in the testing phase, is expected to gain read-only access to VIS in 2022, the EU Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA) said in a statement.
VIS was created to process data and decisions relating to applications for short-stay visas to visit, or to transit through, the Schengen Area. Read-only access to VIS will allow Bulgaria and Romania to view visa applications and access e-mail services, for smoother visa processing, eu-LISA added.
"Bulgaria and Romania are not part of the Schengen Area, however having read-only access to VIS will support them in the implementation and usage of EES, the Entry/Exit System, another large-scale IT system that will record entry and exit of third-country national to and from the Schengen Area in order to increase automation at border checkpoints and to prevent irregular migration. EES, expected to enter operations in the first half of 2022, will also mean digitalising the current practice of manual passports stamping," eu-LISA said.
The two countries will qualify for full access to VIS once they are integrated into the Schengen area, the statement added.
The process of Romania and Bulgaria's accession to VIS started in 2019, consisting of a series of technical tests to connect to the system.
Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007. Croatia became an EU member in 2013.