The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is a visa waiver pre-screening program for visa-exempt visitors who wish to enter the territory of the European Union starting January 1, 2021. The automated IT system is capable to identify any risks associated with a visa exempt visitor travelling to the Schengen Area.
The European Council proposed the establishment of the program on June 2017 as a way to prevent future terrorist attack and immigration flows, which it has been facing for the last few years.
On May 25, 2018, the EU ambassadors confirmed the agreement reached between the Council Presidency and the European Parliament representatives to establish the European Travel Information and Authorization System.
How does ETIAS benefit the EU?
The main idea behind the scheme is the strengthening of external border controls and the enhancement of security within these borders.
Once the program starts working, the EU member states will be able to:
- make advance checks of those who wish to enter the territory
- deny travel authorization, if necessary, to visa-exempt third-country nationals travelling to the Schengen area if the person is seen as a potential threat or risk to the EU
- improve internal security of the territory as a whole and of each member state
- prevent illegal immigration
- limit public health risks, and to reduce delays at the borders by identifying persons who might pose a risk in one of these areas before they arrive at the external borders
Who needs ETIAS?
It is estimated that around 30 million people will enter Europe each year with an ETIAS starting 2021. Currently there are 60 countries who have established agreements on visa-free travel with the European Union, the residents of which are permitted to enter the Schengen Zone without the need to obtain a visa.
However, these agreements only permit the residents of third-world countries to remain in the Schengen Area for a period of 90 days within 6 months, what many visitors have been violating. They too, are not permitted to work, which rule has also been broken by quite a lot of them. That is one of the reasons, why the EU has established ETIAS as well, in order to prevent people overstaying and working illegally, as well as to stop people with criminal records and other inconvenient people from entering.
The countries, the residents of which need to be in possession of an ETIAS in order to enter the European Union are as below:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
- Hong Kong
- Marshall Islands
- New Zealand
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent
- San Marino
- Solomon Islands
- South Korea
- Timor Leste
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Arab Emirates
- United States of America
- Vatican City
The residents of countries not part of this list, still need to apply for a regular Schengen Visa in order to be permitted to enter the Schengen member states, whereas for those who wish to travel to the non-Schengen European countries, the visitors will have to apply for regular visas as applied by each respective country.
Which countries can I visit with ETIAS?
You will have to obtain an ETIAS in order to be able to enter the Schengen territory that has 26 member states, among which 22 European Union member countries, as following:
- Czech Republic
ETIAS Application Process
Though no one will be able to obtain an ETIAS before January 1, 2021, one and a half years to go, the application process has already been known. There are some specific steps one will have to follow in order to obtain this travel authorization that gives to its holder the right to enter the Schengen Zone.
Step 1 – Make sure you are eligible for an ETIAS!
Check the list given above on “Who needs an ETIAS”, and if your country is not there then you probably need to apply for a normal visa. If your country is part of the Schengen then you will not need to obtain an ETIAS to move throughout the area, since its member states have abolished the internal borders between each other.
Step 2 – Start online application!
Before starting your application process, make sure you have the sufficient funds in your bank for the 7 euros fee that has to be paid in order to get your ETIAS application processed. You will need strong connection for it, since if internet connection stops in the middle of your application then you may have to start it from the beginning and face other problems throughout the second attempt.
Step 3 – Complete online application form!
The application form will ask you some specific information about you, which you must give in order to be considered for an ETIAS. Give correct and honest information that complies to your passport and other documents. The application asks questions on basic information as:
- Name & Surname
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Information regarding your parents
- Passport details
- Nationality details
- Valid email address
- Phone number
- Employment history
- Details regarding past trips in Europe
- Medical condition
- Drug use
- Criminal history
- Security information
Step 4 – Make sure your passport is valid!
Unlike when applying for a visa, during your ETIAS application you will not need to submit a large amount of documents, which take time and energy to obtain. All you have to do is to make sure your passport has the necessary validity as set by the EU council rules on ETIAS, which requires your passport to be valid at the time you are arriving in Europe and beyond your planned departure. The passport must as well contain a machine-readable section on the biographic details page.
Step 5 – Application Processing!
After you have submitted your application, what happens next is no longer in your hands. The application will firstly be screened across various security systems created by the Schengen as the SIS / VIS / EUROPOL DATA / SLTD (Interpol) / EURODAC / ECRIS etc., the ETIAS screening rules as well as the ETIAS watch list. These systems will come up with data on you if your file corresponds to the data triggering a hit.
Normally, if the system does not find any information that may suggest you are a potential risk for the Schengen or the EU, you will be issued an ETIAS within 96 hours. On the other hand, if the system find something suspicious about you, then your application will be refused and you will have to apply for a visa instead. However, in case your ETIAS application is refused you will still get an email with the reasons on the refusal.
Step 6 – Boarding and arriving at the EU!
After you get the confirmation that you have been granted with an ETIAS, you can travel to Europe. However, keep in mind, that the ETIAS, just like the visa does not grant you with an automatic right to enter the borders of the EU, since it is the border guard who will give the final decision whether you shall be permitted to enter or not.
The border guard will check the ETIAS database whether you have been granted with travel authorization or not, then decide if you should be permitted to pass.
FAQ on ETIAS
Why is the EU rolling out the ETIAS program?
As explained above in more details, after encountering with illegal migration, refugee flows and terrorist attacks, the EU members states have finally decided to come up with a form to control who enters and who leaves the area, in order to strengthen security and prevent threats.
Do EU residents need ETIAS?
Since the EU has abolished borders between member states, the ETIAS is not meant for them.
Can I travel to non-EU countries with an ETIAS?
So far, you can travel with the ETIAS only in the EU member states. Whether you will be permitted to enter other countries with it, it all depends on the travel policies of the other countries.
Do UK citizens need ETIAS?
Probably yes. Though the United Kingdom has yet not finalized leaving the EU, on March 29, 2019 it will finally be out of the block. About that time will be known whether it will be part of the ETIAS scheme, what most probably it will.
Is ETIAS the same as the US ESTA?
The US Electronic System for Travel Authorization is quite similar to the European ETIAS. Actually the latter is based on the first. However, you cannot use your ESTA to enter the EU, or your ETIAS to enter the US.
How much time do I need to complete the ETIAS application form?
It really depends on the applicant, but it is estimated that the form will take less than 10 minutes to complete. After you submit it, you will receive an answer within 96 hours.
How long is ETIAS valid?
The ETIAS will be valid for a period of three years, during which you will be able to enter the European Union member states, by plane, land or sea as many times as you wish.
What if my passport expires while my ETIAS is still valid?
If your passport expires while your ETIAS is still valid, you will have to apply for another ETIAS with your new passport.
How many times can I enter the EU with an ETIAS?
For as long as your ETIAS and your passport are still valid, you can travel to and from Europe as many times as you wish, with the main condition not to exceed more than 60 days of stay within a 180 days period.
Do I need an ETIAS if I have a Schengen Visa?
If you are in possession of a Schengen Visa, that means your home country is not eligible for the ETIAS program. Therefore you are not eligible to apply for an ETIAS until your country reaches a visa-free travel agreement with the EU. On the meantime you can continue traveling to EU with a Schengen visa.