The Schengen Information System (SIS) is the most widely used and important information sharing system for security and border management in Europe.
The main objective of the SIS is to make Europe more secure. The system helps competent authorities in Europe to maintain internal security in the absence of internal border controls through three different areas of cooperation:
- Border control cooperation
The SIS allows border guards, as well as visa and migration authorities, to enter and consult alerts on third-country nationals with the aim of refusing them entry or stay in the area Schengen.
- Law enforcement cooperation
The SIS supports police and judicial cooperation by allowing competent authorities to create and consult alerts on missing persons and on persons or objects linked to criminal offences.
- Cooperation on vehicle registration
Vehicle registration authorities can consult the SIS to verify the legal status of vehicles presented to them for registration. They only have access to SIS alerts relating to vehicles, registration certificates and license plates.
The SIS allows competent national authorities, such as the police and border guards, to enter and consult alerts on persons or objects.
A SIS Alert contains not only information about a particular person or object, but also instructions for the authorities on what to do when the person or object has been found. The specialized National SIRENE Bureaux located in each Member State serve as single points of contact for the exchange of additional information and the coordination of activities related to SIS alerts. At the end of 2020, the SIS contained approximately 93 million records, it was consulted 3.7 billion times and obtained 209,178 results (when a search leads to an alert and the authorities confirm it).
The Schengen Information System in the future
In November 2018, the co-legislators approved Regulation (EU) 2018/1860, Regulation (EU) 2018/1861 and Regulation (EU) 2018/1862. This regulation entered into force on December 28, 2019 and will be fully applicable in 2022.
The new functionalities of the SIS are being implemented at different stages, with work to be completed in 2022. Details on the current state of implementation are included in the annual report to the Parliament and the Council, published by the Commission in June 2021.
- Information Sharing: New categories of alerts and more data will be shared through the SIS, ensuring that comprehensive and more reliable information is available to Member State authorities.
- Biometrics: The SIS will contain palm prints, fingerprints, facial images and DNA of, for example, missing persons to confirm their identity.
- Fight against terrorism : More information will be shared on people and assets involved in terrorism-related activities, enabling Member State authorities to better prosecute and prevent serious crimes and terrorism.
- Vulnerable people: Competent authorities will have the possibility to introduce preventive alerts in the system to protect certain categories of vulnerable persons (missing persons, children at risk of abduction or potential victims of human trafficking or gender-based violence) .
- Irregular migration: Return decisions and entry bans will be part of the information shared in the system to improve their effective enforcement.
- Improved access for EU agencies: Europol will now have access to all categories of alerts in the SIS, while the operational teams of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will be able to access the SIS to carry out their tasks in the hotspots.
In addition, the introduction since March 2018 of an AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) in the SIS, and the resulting possibility of carrying out searches using fingerprints, makes it even more difficult for criminals to move unnoticed across Europe. Since 28 December 2020, all Member States must be able to carry out searches based on fingerprints in the SIS. Member States are now gradually rolling out the fingerprint search functionality to their police and border guards.
On 9 December 2020, the Commission adopted a proposal allow Europol to issue alerts in the Schengen Information System (SIS) based on information from third countries, in particular to detect foreign terrorist fighters.
Countries using the Schengen Information System
The Schengen Information System is operational in 30 European countries, including 26 EU Member States (only Cyprus is not yet connected to the SIS) and four Schengen associated countries (Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland).
EU Member States benefiting from special arrangements:
- Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia are not yet part of the area without internal border control (the ‘Schengen area’). However, since August 2018, Bulgaria and Romania have started to make full use of the SIS. A Council decision is still required for the lifting of controls at the internal borders of these two Member States. In the case of Croatia, some restrictions still apply to its use of Schengen-wide SIS alerts for the purpose of refusing entry or stay in the Schengen area. These restrictions will be lifted as soon as Croatia becomes part of the area without internal border controls.
- Ireland operates the SIS, but since it has chosen not to join the Schengen area, it cannot issue or access Schengen-wide alerts for denial of entry and stay in the Schengen area.
- Cyprus is not yet connected to the SIS because it benefits from a temporary derogation to join the Schengen area.