Schengen Countries Have No Overstay Control

Every year, thousands of Thais comply with the often humiliating scrutiny of their financial situation when applying for a Schengen visa to Europe, believing that the hassle is necessary in order to prevent some Thai visitors from staying in Europe after the expiration of their visa.
Reality is, however, that the countries under the Schengen umbrella have no control mechanism in place whatsoever to check if a Thai tourist returns on time or stays on in Europe.
Some of the countries within the Schengen area have for years tried to implement a computerized entry and exit control system much like the highly efficient system used by the Thai Immigration Police. But the surveillance system can not be implemented, because the collection and cross border sharing of personal data is a violation of data registration laws in several member countries.
Denmark is one of the countries, that have taken an exception to the data registration system. The country spends heavily on staff at its embassy in Bangkok as well as a whole department in Copenhagen tasked with scrutinizing and evaluating all the Schengen visa applications. The main focus is on preventing Thai tourists planning to overstay in Europe from going. But nobody knows if it works.
Last year, Denmark refused entry to 195 Thai people suspected of planning to overstay. The final decision to reject or accept an applicant always rests with the Danish Immigration Service in Copenhagen. The embassy can grant a visa “bona fide” to any traveler if they have no reason to suspect that he or she will overstay in Denmark. But if they are in doubt, they need to forward the application to the authorities in Copenhagen.
The Immigration Service in Copenhagen make their decision based on an assumption. Neither the Immigration Service itself nor the Danish Ministry for Immigration who oversees the Danish Immigration Service has any clue how many of the visas end up being overstayed. That goes not only for the visas which the Danish Embassy in Bangkok are issuing bona fide it also goes for the ones they after additional scrutiny finally allow to pass.
The only figures they have available are, that last year the embassy in Bangkok received 447 applications for a tourist visa. Of these, the Embassy referred 17 applications to Copenhagen, where three were rejected. As for applications for visa to visit a friend or relative, out of the total number of 1760 applications, the Embassy referred 1300 to Copenhagen, where it was decided to refuse entry to 192 Thais.
Even within Denmark, there is no systematic registration done to see if it is all worth the effort.
When the Thai traveler arrives Denmark, typically by air to Copenhagen airport, the immigration police will stamp an entry stamp in the passport, but no registration of the entering person takes place. The same thing happens, when the tourist leaves. Sometimes.
The police manning the counters in the Copenhagen International Airport confirm that only on days when they have full manpower, they stamp exit stamps on Schengen visas for tourists bound for destinations outside the Schengen area. On days, when they are short on manpower, they allow tourists to depart with unstamped visas and concentrate on manning the entry counters.
“We find it more alarming, that quite often when people leave, we see that they were never stamped in. When we ask the person, they say they entered in Paris or Amsterdam. This is something we have complained about, but it is still taking place,” the officer informs.
If the police finds a departing tourist whose visa has expired, the officer will mostly just give the traveler a verbal reprimand on the spot. In cases where the overstay is ‘significant’, however, they have to make a report. But when asked how many of these reports are written per year, the secretariat of the immigration police in Copenhagen airport admits that they don’t register them, so they do not have any number.
As a consolation, the officer in charge of the secretariat says that anyway, many tourists probably return to Thailand through another airport in another Schengen country than the one they arrived at. But again it is pure guessing.
“We don’t know how many do that, because there is no clearing mechanism between the Schengen countries where we can see who enters and who exits the countries.”
From a Thai travelers point of view it adds pain to the insult that it is only because they are Thais that they have to go through the Schengen visa application agony. Their neighbors the Malaysians and Singaporeans are beyond suspicion of overstay so they don’t need to apply for a Schengen visa. Because no systematic registration takes place, there is no information if any Malaysians or Singaporeans abuse this privilege to overstay in Europe. Which happens to be the same reason why it is a free guess how many Thais who actually overstays.

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

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