The European Union (EU) has officially announced an ESTA equivalent system of an Electronic Travel Authorization, called European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), which will apply from 2021 onwards.
Plenty of reports in the media, including other travel blogs, have already sensationalized this matter in big headlines saying (incorrectly) “Travelers will soon need a visa” which is totally false.
An ETA is equivalent to what Australia, Canada and the U.S. have been doing for years and basically is a simple data collection and pre-clearance of passengers wishing to travel to the respective country. This isn’t a visa or e-visa – that’s something totally different.
You can access the European Commission Press Release here.
In November 2016, the Commission proposed to establish a European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) to strengthen security checks on those persons who travel visa-free to the EU, currently nationals from over 60 countries (full list here).
The ETIAS will be an automated IT system created to identify any security or irregular migratory risks posed by visa-exempt visitors traveling to the Schengen area, whilst at the same time facilitate crossing borders for the vast majority of travelers who do not pose such risks. All non-EU nationals who do not need a visa to travel to the Schengen area will have to apply for a travel authorization through the ETIAS system prior to their trip. The information gathered via the ETIAS will allow, in full respect of fundamental rights and data protection principles, for advance verification of potential security or irregular migration risks.
After filling in an online application form, the system will conduct checks against EU information systems for borders and security and, in the vast majority of cases, issue a travel authorization within minutes. The ETIAS travel authorization will be a mandatory condition for entry to the Schengen area. It will be checked together with the travel documents by the border guards when crossing the EU border. This prior verification of visa exempt non-EU citizens will facilitate border checks; avoid bureaucracy and delays for travelers when presenting themselves at the borders; ensure a coordinated and harmonized risk assessment of third-country nationals; and substantially reduce the number of refusals of entry at border crossing points.
As outlined above, the Visa Waiver principle remains intact. This system will allow the Schengen countries to collect additional information about travelers, which is based on the data given by the passenger at the time of application. There won’t be a detailed background check apart from scanning against the established security watch lists.
Here are the affected countries for which travelers will need to apply:
This is how the system is going to work:
At the moment there are 60 eligible countries that will be required to submit an online ETIAS application. Many of these countries can currently travel to Europe without the need of a visa. The ETIAS for Europe is a system that will pre-screen travelers before they even board on a plane. All information provided on the ETIAS application will be closely examined and check against security databases.
This is the complete list of countries affected:
What databases will be checked by ETIAS?
When verifying and assessing the information submitted by visa-exempt travellers, the system will automatically cross-check each application against:
- the existing EU information systems:
- the Schengen Information System (SIS),
- the Visa Information System (VIS),
- Europol data,
- the Eurodac database,
- proposed future EU information systems:
- the Entry/Exit System (EES),
- Interpol databases:
- the Interpol Stolen and Lost Travel Document database (SLTD),
- the Interpol Travel Documents Associated with Notices database (TDAWN),
- a dedicated ETIAS watch list and specific risk indicators.
The ETIAS visa waiver will be valid for short-term stays and for business or leisure purposes. Those who wish to study and work in Europe will need to apply for a different visa. Once approved, an ETIAS can be used for three years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first.
What’s important is that the ETIAS requirements will involve having an eligible passport valid for at least 6 months upon entry to the Schengen Area. Without this, the application will be rejected (and probably invalidated when the expiration date is near).
Applicants from the visa waiver countries will have to provide the following information when applying for an ETIAS visa:
- Full name
- Date and place of birth
- Current address
- Parents’ information
- Passport and other nationality details
Apart from basic personal information, applicants will also have to answer questions related to:
- Drug use
- Human trafficking
- Travel to conflict areas
- Criminal history
- Employment history
- Past European travel information
- Security information
Other countries have implement this for a long time and in particular the U.S. has had it since 2010 with so far no reciprocal action by the EU or Schengen area. It’s actually way overdue to have a similar system in place considering how European travelers have often been harassed at other countries port of entry (especially the U.S.).
The cost of the ETIAS will be 7 Euro, just that it’ll be valid for three years or until the passport expires which is one year longer than ESTA. All in all no reason to sweat it, it’s a simple matter that takes no longer than 5-10 minutes to complete.
There will definitely be plenty of scam sites again that try to fish for people who look up the application on search engines. It’s very important to only use the official website which offers the application for the low fee of a couple of dollars. All of these unofficial “service sites” add on a substantial fee.