When applying for the first time, all applicants will have to appear in person at the embassy. Biometric data, along with the data provided in the Schengen visa application form, will be recorded in the VIS database and stored for five years. Frequent travellers will in principle only have to complete the procedure once within this period, as the fingerprints may be copied from the previous application file in the VIS.
The VIS will contain all Schengen visa applications and the decisions taken by any Schengen State's embassies. This will facilitate visa application procedures and checks at the external borders of the Schengen Area, as well as enhance security. The recourse to biometric technology will protect visa applicants better against identity theft and prevent false identifications, which in certain cases lead to a refusal of a visa or entry to a person who is entitled to enter. This will also allow to establish more easily the lawful use of previous visas and applicants' travel history (e.g. when applying for a multiple-entry visa).
Exemptions from the fingerprinting requirement are provided for a limited number of applicants, including children under the age of twelve and persons for whom the collection of fingerprints is physically impossible. Heads of State and members of the national government with members of their official delegation and spouses will also be exempted, if travelling for official purposes.
The implementation of the VIS is part of the gradual worldwide deployment, which began in 2011. On the same day as in Greece, the VIS will start operating in all Schengen embassies in Europe.
For further information, please see the website of the European Commission.
Frequently Asked Questions - Visa Information System