FRENCH AM­BAS­SADOR CLEARS AIR ON SCHEN­GEN VISA

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Nasha Smith

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.

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