ETIAS or the European Travel Information and Authorisation System, a security system due to protect and strengthen borders, is due to become operational before the end of 2022. The new administration procedure will have a three-year validity, and implies a pre-approval for non-EU citizens to travel in the Schengen area without a visa.
The main goal of the ETIAS visa waiver for Europe is to identify possible threats or risks associated with visitors traveling to any of the Schengen Area countries. The ETIAS visa waiver programme will be needed to enter a Schengen member country. By the end of 2022, all visitors that currently do not need a visa to enter Europe will be expected to apply for an ETIAS travel authorisation.
The ETIAS for Europe will grant travellers authorisation to visit the ETIAS countries, which are the 26 members that compose the Schengen zone. The countries that make up this specific region acknowledge the abolishment of internal borders with other member countries. ETIAS thus helps strengthening safety within the zone.
A scheme for all countries on a visa waiver
Currently there are 60 countries that will need to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver when visiting the Schengen zone, and it is likely that ETIAS will be available to more countries in the future. 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 for more than 90 consecutive days will need to apply for a different visa.
The visa waiver for Europe, ETIAS, will be available online for all travellers who wish to visit one or more countries in the Schengen zone. Travellers need to meet the ETIAS requirements in order to complete and receive an ETIAS travel authorisation successfully.
In order to apply online for the ETIAS, applicants need a valid passport, an email address, and a debit or credit card to pay for the application fee. This fee is currently fixed at €7.
The ETIAS application only requests that travellers complete basic biographic information including full name, date of birth, and country of residency. When completing the ETIAS application, the applicant should provide their passport details. At the end of the process, there will be a set of security and health questions.
Most applications will be processed within minutes. All applications are checked across a series of security databases, among them, SIS, VIS, Europol Data, and Interpol. ETIAS has its unique screening rules and a watch-list. Once an application has been revised, the applicant will receive a confirmation message with the travel authorisation at the email address provided..
ETIAS can only be used for transit, tourism, and business travel, although it can also apply as a visa waiver to study or work for stays of maximum 90 days. Once approved, an ETIAS can be used for three years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first.
ETIAS will be requested by travel carriers prior to the beginning of the trip. The EU Commission warns that not having an ETIAS could have serious consequences, including denial of entry to the Schengen member country.
New rules for Schengen visas
In establishing ETIAS, the European Commission is expecting a significant increase in travellers crossing the Schengen borders in the years to come. Although the Covid-19 pandemic depressed travel within the Schengen area in 2020, the Commission expects to register more than 40 million travellers per year in a not so distant future.
While citizens entitled to come without a visa will have to fill up the ETIAS from next year, the European Commission is also improving visa regulations to non-EU citizens. Citizens following the approved procedure will benefit from:
- a reduced time to visa decision from 15 to 10 days;
- foreign travellers will be able to apply for a Schengen visa 6 months prior to their visit instead of the current 3 months;
- EU visa applications will be available online, including an electronic signature;
- Regular travellers who are trusted by the authorities according to their migration, security and health history, may be offered longer-stay visas from 1 to 3 years.