Report Schengen area

How will the new visa-free European travel system work

Set to enter into force next year, the ETIAS scheme aims at speeding up traveling authorisation for travellers from countries which do not require a visa. In this regard, it looks pretty much like the US ESTA. But there is still some confusion on how it works, so here we have a closer look at it.

Published on 27 January 2020 at 12:29

Ever since the European Union first announced that it was planning to create a new travel system in a bid to enhance security and improve border management, speculations on this system have been of every kind and travelers across the globe have started getting a bit worried about it.

While a new requirement to Europe may seem a bit scary, it actually is not as complex and difficult as it seems. ETIAS is, in fact, set to make traveling safer for everyone, and will apply as a requirement only to the nationals of countries traveling visa-free to the Schengen Area. 

While many have attempted to clarify what the ETIAS actually is, most travelers remain either confused or uninformed about it. Following, we have tried to briefly but clearly and simply explain what ETIAS is all about, how travelers will be affected, and who and how will benefit from it. 

What is ETIAS?

The ETIAS abbreviation stands for the European Travel Information and Authorization System. It is a new EU scheme through which nationals of several world countries planning to travel to the Schengen Area will have to apply for and obtain through it a travel authorization named the same – ETIAS – soon in the future.

The system, which will become operational by January 2021, is completely electronical and resembles to schemes operated by other countries as the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) or the Canadian Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).

It is not a visa, as many have been confused into believing it is, but rather a single document that one can easily apply within minutes, from the comfort of their own home. 

How Does ETIAS Serve to the EU?

Once the ETIAS starts operating, every person planning to travel to the Schengen Area visa-free will have to apply for it online well in advance of their trip.

Each application will undergo detailed security checks before a final decision is given whether the traveler should be permitted to enter the zone or not. The ETIAS system will detect all persons that may pose a threat to the security of the EU and non-EU Schengen Member States, and reject them.

This way the European Union will know who is planning to cross its borders, and prevent from entering those that could disturb the safety of its citizens and other travelers. 

This system will continuously gather, keep track of, and update necessary information regarding visitors. It will also help the EU authorities to improve management of the external borders, make irregular migration more difficult, assist in the detection and decrease of crime and terrorism, therefore reinforcing the visa liberalization policy of the EU at the same time. 

Who Will Need ETIAS?

So far, it is foreseen that the nationals of over 60 world countries that currently have a short-term visa-free travel regime with the EU, will soon need to apply for an ETIAS before taking a trip to any of the Schengen member countries. 

These countries are: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macao, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican City, and Venezuela.

Which Countries Can a Traveler Enter with an ETIAS

Those holding a valid ETIAS will be eligible to enter the 26 Schengen member countries, 22 of which are EU member states, which until the enforcement of this system are permitted to enter visa-free. 

The Schengen member countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Getting an ETIAS – Application Procedures Explained 

The European Union has announced that the procedures to get an ETIAS will be simple and quick, as its purpose is not to make traveling to the Schengen Area more difficult, but to facilitate it and make it safer for every visitor. 

Soon, the European Union will launch a website from which applicants can complete the application form. It is estimated that filling out an ETIAS application will take about 10 minutes.

Applicants will need to provide the following information:

  • Full name

  • Date & place of birth

  • Citizenship

  • Address, email and phone number

  • Education and work experience

  • First EU country the applicant intends to visit in his/her first visit to the Schengen Area

In addition, there will also be background and eligibility questions on applicant’s medical condition, police records, possible trips to conflict zones, and other similar questions, which the European Union has not yet revealed.

How much will ETIAS cost?

As for now, it is foreseen that one ETIAS application will cost €7, while all those under the age of 18 at the time of application will be exempt from paying the fee. No additional service fees will be implemented. 

ETIAS Processing Period

Once the applicant gives in all the information required and pays the ETIAS fee, he/she can submit the application by clicking on the 'submit' button (or another similar button that will be given). The system will then check if the given information was correct, the eligibility and risk factors of the applicant.

The processing of each application is expected to take about four days, however, in specific circumstances when the ETIAS system needs to consult other EU schemes in an application may take up to two weeks to be processed.

Each traveler will receive the answer on their application through their email. Those that are granted with an ETIAS will receive the document in their email as well, in the form of an A4 document. This document must be printed and carried when traveling to the Schengen Area. 

Validity of an ETIAS

An approved ETIAS will be valid for a period of three years, starting from the date of issuance. If the passport of the traveler expires before the validity of an ETIAS ends, the document becomes invalid at that time as well.

Rules of Traveling with an ETIAS

Rules of traveling with an ETIAS to the Schengen Area, will remain the same as the current rules of visa-free travel to this territory. This includes:

  • Travelers holding an ETIAS can remain in Europe for a maximum of 90 days within every six months. 

  • Travelers must have a valid passport, with at least three more months of validity left beyond the date of intended departure from the Schengen Area. Those holding passports older than ten years, even if they have enough validity left, will not be able to get an ETIAS in first place. 

  • Visitors will still be obligated to hold EU Travel Insurance in order to be permitted to enter from any EU port of entry.

  • Holders of ETIAS, will be able to perform only unpaid activity in the Schengen Area, as tourism, medical checkup or short-term study. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What documents are required to apply for an ETIAS?

While completing the form, the applicant will only need a passport valid for at least six more months beyond the date of the intended stay in the Schengen Area, but not older than ten years.

Can an ETIAS be rejected?

Yes, an ETIAS can be rejected to any applicant for several different reasons. The system could have detected the applicant gave incorrect or false information, was seen as a suspicious or a possible threat to the safety of the EU.

When an applicant receives a negative answer on their application, they will also receive the reason why they were rejected from getting an ETIAS. 

What then?

Those getting a negative decision on an ETIAS application can appeal the decision if they think it was unjust or taken by mistake. 

However, if the reason for the rejection of an ETIAS application is correct and justifiable the applicant should apply for a regular Schengen Visa instead. 

How many times can a traveler enter the EU with an ETIAS?

A traveler can use the ETIAS to visit the European countries in which it is admissible, as soon as the ETIAS is valid, and the traveler does not overstay by violating the 90-days-within-six-months rule. 

Do travelers with a Schengen Visa need ETIAS?

The ETIAS will be mandatory only for visitors from countries that right now can travel to the Schengen Area visa-free. Which means if a person possesses a Schengen visa right now, he or she does not fall under this category, and therefore is not obligated nor eligible for an ETIAS. 

Do those holding long-term visa from one of the Member States need ETIAS?

As a long-term visa/residence permit issued by one of the EU member states permits its holder to travel throughout the whole Schengen Area without the need of getting additional travel permits, ETIAS will not be required from them. 

Do babies and children need ETIAS?

Yes, babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, and adults, will all need to get an ETIAS in order to visit the EU. Children under the age of 18, will however be exempt from paying the fee. Their parents will need to complete the online application form for them. 

What are the differences between an ETIAS and a Schengen Visa?

In essence, they are both permits to enter the Schengen Area. However, it’s the procedures and fees that make all the difference.

While the application process for an ETIAS is completed within 10 minutes, with no documents but a passport required, the process to get a Schengen visa is way more complicated. There are quite e lot of documents required, depending on applicant’s purpose of the visit, including health insurance, proof of accommodation and sufficient financial means. 

In addition, Schengen visa applicants are also required to make an appointment and attend a visa interview, while paying a visa fee of €60, which by February 2020 will increase to €80. 

The processing of an ETIAS is foreseen to take about four days while the processing of a Schengen visa takes 15 business days, in general.

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