FRENCH AMBASSADOR CLEARS AIR ON SCHENGEN VISA
Following the announcement on May 28th, 2015 that St Lucian citizens would no longer need a visa to travel to European Union countries per the Schengen Agreement, French Ambassador to the OECS, Eric de La Moussaye sought to clarify any erroneous information and give the public a better understanding of the waiver. Speaking from the French Embassy at Vigie, Ambassador de la Moussaye made it clear that there are still guidelines to be followed.
“To have the Schengen visa doesn’t impede you to have papers; information you must give to the police when you arrive. Because people must know there are rules about where you are going to live, how long you are going to stay, if you have any insurance, if you have a ticket to return and the purpose you have come for. That’s normal questions they put to people abroad, outside the Schengen airspace.”
The new development does not extend to our neighbouring islands that have remained departments of France.
According to de la Moussaye,“It doesn’t change anything about the French overseas territories such as Martinique and Guadeloupe. You must respect the same rules for Martinique and Guadeloupe. It means you have no visa for fifteen days but afterwards you need authorization and so on.”
In recent years Canada has imposed visa requirements on St Lucians, reportedly due to the high volume of locals applying for refugee status under false pretences and other offences. Could we see a repeat of this with the European Union?
“I hope not,” shared de la Moussaye. “We opened our doors for St Lucians. Otherwise France would not have defended the principle of opening for the visa waiver. For many years we have worked with the European Union and the reason why it did not succeed until now is because it was not only the Caribbean countries concerned. I think there were 15 –17 countries involved. So it was more difficult with other countries than Caribbean countries.”
Another hot topic was the number of St Lucian prisoners in Martinique which continues to escalate. But the ambassador considers these issues exclusive of the visa waiver.
“I think you may have delinquents, people who are drug trafficking, violence and things like that, who are arrested in Martinque but it has nothing to do with the Schengen visa. That’s why the rules for Martinique and Guadeloupe are not exactly the same as Schengen. Because you are very tied and close and France alone is responsible for the rules for going to Martinique. And we must pay attention to that because of course you have much more citizens of St Lucia who want to go to Martinique rather than going to Paris for example. And we must pay attention to what they do and that’s normal. Maybe one day it will change but for now it’s not the same as Schengen.”
It is a fairly new policy but there are questions about whether there will be a time when this decision will be reviewed.
“Rules change but the European Union took this decision and politically I think it would be very difficult to take another decision. But I can’t of course say what will happen. You never know. But I am sure they will think many times about saying that now St Lucian citizens need to have a visa to go to Schengen countries. Because if they waited for such a long time to say yes I don’t think in a few years they will change,” said de la Moussaye.
The visa waiver may be in effect but here are some things you need to know before planning that long-awaited Euro-trip.
Random verification may still be carried out upon entry so it is highly recommended you have these documents on hand: - Paid return ticket to country of residence - Proof of financial means - Proof of accommodation - Travel/health insurance
What travel documents are needed in order to enjoy visa-free travel to the Schengen area? - A passport issued within the previous 10 years and valid for at least three months after the intended date of departure from the Schengen area.
Once the visa-free travel applies, can I travel from one Schengen country into another country? - There are no border controls between countries in the Schengen area. Border controls are carried out between the Schengen countries and Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania (EU Member States which do not yet fully apply the Schengen rules). Controls are also carried out between Schengen countries and the UK and Ireland (which do not belong to the Schengen Area).
If I stay beyond 90 days (without a residence permit or a long term visa) or work in the Schengen area (without a working permit), what can happen? - A non-EU national who stays in the Schengen area beyond 90 days (without a residence permit or long-stay visa) is illegally present, which can result in a re-entry ban to the Schengen area. Working in the Schengen area without a work permit is also illegal (even if less than 90 days) and can likewise result in a re-entry ban to the Schengen area. Depending on the Member State administrative penalties may also apply.
For more information regarding the short stay Schengen visa waiver, visit www.ambafrance-lc.org.
French Ambassador to the OECS, Eric de La Moussaye gives insight on Schengen visa waiver.