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What is the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS)?

If you haven’t yet heard of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), don’t panic, it won’t be in place until 2022. When it does come, however, it will have implications for anyone travelling into or through Europe. So what exactly is ETIAS, and what will it mean for travellers to the EU?

What is the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS)?

ETIAS is rather like the American Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and provides pre-authorisation in electronic form for citizens from outside of the EU to travel to Europe. ETIAS will not apply to everyone, however; it will only be needed by citizens whose countries currently allow visa-free access to the EU.

The system will provide a way to digitally track individuals entering, travelling around, and leaving EU countries. It is important to note that ETIAS is not a visa, rather it is classed as a visa-waiver.

When a person applies for an ETIAS, checks will be carried out to ensure they do not pose a security threat. If they are deemed to be a potential threat to EU national security, the ETIAS will be refused, and they will not be allowed entry at the first EU border they arrive at, regardless of the visa they hold.

As the ETIAS website explains, “the main goal for the E.U. is to improve the external and internal security of E.U. citizens by having a centralised system to issue travel authorisations to E.U. visitors and monitor their travels within the Schengen zone”.

The scheme is targeted to start on 1st January 2021.

Who Will Need an ETIAS?

Nationals from countries that are currently exempt from needing a visa to enter the EU will need to apply for an ETIAS. This includes citizens of the following countries:

  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Taiwan
  • South Korea
  • Japan
  • United States of America
  • United Kingdom
  • Ukraine
  • Serbia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Albania
  • North Macedonia
  • Montenegro
  • Moldova
  • UAE
  • Israel
  • Panama
  • Nicaragua
  • Brazil
  • Paraguay
  • Malaysia
  • Chile
  • Peru
  • Colombia
  • Venezuela
  • Honduras
  • Guatemala
  • Mexico
  • Costa Rica
  • Bahamas
  • Saint Lucia
  • Barbados
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Grenada
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

According to the ETIAS official website, “passport holders of 59 of the 62 countries that currently travel visa-free, will require an ETIAS waiver to travel to Europe for the purposes of tourism, business, or transit for a 90 days stay in any 180-day period”. A complete list of all 59 countries is available online. Once granted, an ETIAS will be valid for three years (or until the date of your passport’s expiry) and can be used in all countries using the ETIAS. Travellers with a Schengen visa will not need to apply for an ETIAS.

An ETIAS will be required by all travellers regardless of age, however, there is a fee concession (as explained below) for those under 18 and over 70 years of age.

How will Travellers Apply for an ETIAS?

The application process will be completely online and it is expected that this will take in the region of the applicant for ten minutes. The ETIAS website is still to be launched.

When completing the ETIAS application form, the following information will be required:

  • Personal information including Surname (family name), first name(s), surname at birth, usual name(s); date of birth, place of birth, country of birth, sex, current nationality, first names of the parents of the applicant; home address; passport and/or Travel document information; information on any other nationalities or citizenships; address of permanent residence; email address and telephone number;
  • EU Member State of intended first entry;
  • Education and/or current occupation information;
  • ETIAS background and eligibility questions – this will include:
    • medical conditions or other infectious or contagious parasitic diseases;
    • a criminal history involving serious damage to property, to another person or entity;
    • history of distributing illegal drugs;
    • previous travel to war-zone countries as well as any previous immigration or travel history which resulted in the applicant being deported or rejected entry into an EU member country;
  • If the applicant is a minor, the identity of the person responsible for the minor;
  • For family members to EU citizens/third-country nationals benefitting from free movement without residence cards: their status as a family member; the identity details of the family member with whom the applicant has ties; their family ties.

At the end of the ETIAS application, you will need to pay a fee of €7. Applicants who are under the age of 18, or over 70 will not be charged an application fee.

Once the online form is completed, the application will be processed automatically and most decisions will be received within 96 hours or less. Where there are additional questions, some applications (in the small minority of cases) may take up to four weeks to process; for this reason, it will be advisable to apply well in advance.

Will Travellers from the UK Definitely Need an ETIAS?

As the UK will not be an EU member state or in the Schengen area, it is most likely that travellers from Britain and Northern Ireland will need to apply for an ETIAS before entering an EU country. The same will most likely apply to British nationals (Overseas) British Overseas Territories citizens (BOTC), British overseas citizens (BOC), British protected persons (BPP) and British subjects (BS).

Final words

The new ETIAS will hopefully prove effective in bolstering the security of the EU from 2022, reducing incidences of terrorism and other serious criminal activity. Having a criminal record will not necessarily prevent travellers from entering the EU, as the granting of an ETIAS will depend on the crime and when it was committed. It will remain to be seen how the ETIAS impacts on British travellers to the EU, whether for work, a holiday, to visit family or business. However, all indications would suggest that we will need to get used to completing an ETIAS application from 1st January 2022 before we go on our Summer holidays.

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