Visa Denials Based on Foreign Complaints Must Be Explained, EU Court Rules

A man walks by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, File)

LUXEMBOURG (CN) — European Union countries that turn down visa requests based on objections from other nations must tell the applicant why they were rejected, the bloc’s high court ruled Tuesday. 

Any country that rejects a so-called Schengen visa request must specify which other EU member state has raised an objection to the visa and indicate what the objection is, the European Court of Justice held in two cases involving the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

“The person concerned must be able to ascertain the reasons upon which the decision taken in relation to him or her is based…so as to make it possible for him or her to defend his or her rights in the best possible conditions and to decide, with full knowledge of the relevant facts,” the Luxembourg-based court wrote. 

The ruling from the 13-judge panel combined two similar cases. In one, an Egyptian national identified as R.N.N.S., who is married to a Dutch citizen, had requested a visa to visit his in-laws in the Netherlands in 2017. The Dutch government rejected that request because Hungary, a fellow EU member, considered R.N.N.S. to be a threat to public order.

The Netherlands also rejected a visa request from a widowed Syrian woman who lives in Saudi Arabia and has three adult children living in the Netherlands. K.A., as she is identified by the court, had her visa request rejected because German authorities considered her a threat to public order. 

In both cases, the Dutch government’s rejection did not specify the reason each were considered a threat, nor did it include the country that identified them as such. The EU’s Visa Information System allows member states to share visa information for anyone requesting a visa to the so-called Schengen area, the 26 European countries which have abolished border controls and share a visa policy. 

R.N.N.S. and K.A. appealed their rejections, arguing they couldn’t challenge the decisions as they were not given any information as to why their visas were denied. The Dutch government argued it couldn’t adjudicate the reasons for the denial of the visas and the applicants needed to address that with the country that had listed them as a threat. 

But the Court of Justice held that the system established by EU law precludes differences between member states regarding grounds for visa denials.

“The competent authorities of the member states cannot therefore refuse to issue a uniform visa by relying on a ground not provided for in that code,” the ruling states.

The court further held that countries rejecting a visa must establish a procedure for making sure the rights of applicants are protected, “such as a request for information to the competent authorities of the member states that objected to the issuing of a visa, the possibility for those authorities to intervene in the appeal procedure under Article 32(3) of the Visa Code or any other mechanism ensuring that the appeal brought by those applicants cannot be dismissed definitively without their having had the practical possibility of exercising their rights.” 

Arguments in this case were scheduled to be heard in April, but the hearing was canceled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The court instead took all arguments in writing. The case now returns to The Hague District Court for an evaluation of the visa appeals. 

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