From 2021, visitors to the European Union (EU) who do not require a visa will have to apply for authorisation through the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). This new pre-travel screening system will apply to visitors to countries that are in the Schengen Area of the EU. Countries within the Schengen Area include all EU member states (except for Ireland and the United Kingdom (U.K.)), as well as the four members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). Although Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are not currently within the Schengen Area, as EU member states that are expected to join Schengen, they will be part of ETIAS.
Visitors who are currently able to travel to the EU without any travel authorisation will need to apply for ETIAS authorisation. This includes citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Brazil. Once the U.K. has left the European Union, U.K. citizens are expected to be exempt from EU visa requirements and will therefore likely also have to obtain ETIAS authorisation. Since ETIAS is not a visa, visitors who currently require a visa to enter the Schengen Area will not be affected by the introduction of ETIAS and will still be required to obtain a visa.
Similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) in the United States and the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) in Canada, ETIAS will consist of an online application system that will check an applicant’s identity and passport information against various EU databases. In most cases, an application will be approved within 10 minutes. Applications that are not automatically approved will be checked manually, and applicants who are rejected can appeal the decision. Each application will cost €7 for applicants between the ages of 18 and 70. Applicants who are under 18 or over 70 will not be required to pay a fee. ETIAS authorisation will last for three years or until the expiry of the travel document or passport that was used to make the application.
A successful ETIAS application does not guarantee entry. As with the American ESTA and the Canadian ETA, a visitor’s travel documents and ETIAS authorisation will be checked at the Schengen border and the visitor may be granted entry. If the visitor has not obtained ETIAS authorisation, then entry will be refused.
ETIAS will enable EU border authorities to obtain more information about visa-exempt visitors who are entering the EU. The EU expects ETIAS to speed up entry at Schengen borders, improve border security and reduce illegal migration. Once it has been implemented, ETIAS will enable countries to deny entry to individuals before they arrive at a Schengen border. ETIAS is expected to be fully operational by January 2021.