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Migration and Home Affairs

What is SIS and how does it work?

An alert entered in SIS by one country becomes available in real time in all other countries that use SIS, so that competent authorities across the EU can find the alert.

Technically, SIS consists of the following components:

  • a central system
  • national SIS systems in all the countries using SIS
  • a network between the systems

Each country that uses SIS is responsible for setting up, operating and maintaining its national system and structures. The European Commission is responsible for general supervision, evaluating the system, and adopting implementing and delegated acts on how the SIS and SIRENE work. The EU Agency for large-scale IT systems (eu-LISA) is responsible for the operational management of the central system and the network.

SIS alerts and rights of the individual

A SIS alert contains information about a particular person or object together with instructions for the authorities on what to do when the person or object has been found.

The specialised national SIRENE Bureaux located in each country serve as single points of contact for exchanging additional information and coordinating activities related to SIS alerts.

All data subjects have a right to:

  • access data relating to them
  • correct inaccurate data or erase data unlawfully stored in the system

Anyone who is the subject of alerts for returns or alerts for refusal of entry and stay has the right to be informed about the alert.

All data subjects have a right to bring proceedings before the courts or competent authorities to access, correct or delete data or to obtain compensation for damages suffered from breaches of data protection law in any of the countries that use SIS. 

A renewed system

Timeline for changes to SIS

  1. December 2016

    The Commission presented three proposals for regulations to improve and extend the use of SIS, covering the establishment, operation and use of the system for:

    • border management 
    • police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters
    • the return of illegally staying third country nationals
  2. December 2018

    The regulations entered into force on 28 December 2018.

  3. 2023

    Renewed SIS will be launched and become fully operational.

Functionalities of SIS, as of 2023

Sharing information

New categories of alerts and more data will be shared through SIS, ensuring that more complete and more reliable information is available to the authorities in countries that use SIS.


SIS will contain the following types of biometrics to confirm and verify the identity of people registered in the system:

  • photographs
  • palm prints
  • fingerprints
  • fingermarks
  • palmmarks
  • DNA records (only in relation to missing persons)

Fingerprints, palm prints, fingermarks and palmmarks will be used for biometric searches through the automated fingerprint identification system in SIS.

SIS does not yet use photograph and facial image recognition technology. The Commission must provide a report on the availability, readiness and reliability of such technology before this can be put in place. The European Parliament will be consulted on the report. Once this technology is put in place in SIS, countries will be able to use these tools at regular border crossing points. After that, the Commission may adopt delegated acts determining other circumstances in which photographs and facial images may be used to identify persons.


More information will be shared on people and objects involved in terrorism-related activities, allowing national authorities to better pursue and prevent serious crimes and terrorism.

Since March 2021, countries have shared search “matches” on SIS alerts related to terrorist offences with Europol. Europol exchanges supplementary information with countries on SIS alerts related to terrorist offences through the SIRENE Bureaux.

Vulnerable persons

Competent authorities will issue alerts on missing persons that include additional data. They can also enter preventive alerts in the system to protect certain categories of vulnerable persons (children at risk of abduction or potential victims of terrorism, trafficking in human beings, gender-based violence, or armed conflict/hostilities).

Irregular migration

Return decisions will be part of the information shared in the system to improve the effective enforcement of these decisions. Countries must enter alerts for refusal of entry or stay on people found to be staying in the EU illegally who are subject to entry bans issued in line with the Returns Directive.

Cooperation between registration authorities extended to boat, aircraft and firearms registration

National services responsible for the registration of boats, aircraft and firearms will consult SIS in order to check the legal status of objects presented to them for registration.

  • Boat registration services only have access to SIS alerts on boats and boat engines.
  • Aircraft registration services only have access to alerts on aircraft and aircraft engines.
  • Firearms registration services only have access to alerts for arrest for surrender or extradition, alerts for discreet, inquiry and specific checks and alerts on firearms for seizure or use as evidence.

Enhanced access for EU Agencies

Europol has access to all alert categories in SIS and has started exchanging supplementary information with countries on alerts related to crimes within its remit. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency operational teams have been granted access to SIS for the purpose of carrying out their tasks in the hotspots.

Other updates in the pipeline

A new regulation is being negotiated to enable Europol to propose that countries using SIS enter alerts on suspected terrorists and criminals in SIS on the basis of information from non-EU countries. Implementation of this new feature will start upon adoption.

Countries using SIS

SIS is operational in most EU countries and the Schengen associated countries (Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland).

Related documents

Renewed SIS - presentation
(2.77 MB - PDF)
Renewed SIS - digital leaflet
(1.03 MB - PDF)