What is ETIAS?
ETIAS, which stands for the European Travel Information and Authorization System, is a visa waiver pre-screening program for visitors intending to travel to the European Union, created by the EU in order to protect and strengthen its borders. It is very similar to the United States Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
The establishment of this program has been decided by the European Council on June 2017, after a few years of European Union countries facing terrorist attacks and immigration flows among others. The program will start its implementation on January 2021.
“ETIAS will help improve our security and protect our citizens. It will require all those who do not need a visa to be checked before they travel to the Schengen area. Anyone posing a risk can be prevented from coming.”
Maltese Presidency of the Council
Currently, there are 62 countries the residents of which are permitted to enter the European Union countries, part of the Schengen Area and the EFTA member states. Though there is a limit of up to 90 days for a period of six months, many people have been violating the regulations and staying for longer in Europe. The implementation of the ETIAS aims to stop people with criminal records and other inconvenient people from entering the European countries and overstaying.
Some of the main purposes behind the establishment of the ETIAS are as follows:
- to be able to make advance checks,
- to deny travel authorization, if necessary, to visa-exempt third-country nationals travelling to the
- to improve internal security,
- to prevent illegal immigration,
- to 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.
Countries You Can Visit With an ETIAS
Those who possess an ETIAS can enter the 26 member states of the Schengen Zone, among them 22 of the European Union member states, as listed below:
- Czech Republic
The ETIAS scheme is foreseen to cover the 30 million people who enter the Europe each year from the countries that are permitted to enter Europe visa-free.
Who Needs ETIAS to Travel to Europe?
At the moment, there are 62 eligible countries that have been granted with the visa free regime, the residents of which by 2021 will have to obtain an ETIAS in order to be able to enter Europe. The ETIAS will grant the traveler with the right to enter and stay in Europe for up to 90 days for a period of six months.
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||Argentina|
|Barbados||Bosnia and Herzegovina|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Saint Lucia|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Tuvalu|
|Ukraine||United Arab Emirates|
|United States of America||Uruguay|
The other countries that are not part of this list, will have to apply for a regular Schengen Visa in order to visit 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.
How Does the ETIAS Work?
Though some might suggest that this is just a simpler version of visas, it is actually not true. While visas are much more detailed, can be more expensive and time consuming to apply for, the ETIAS is very simple and the online application form can be completed within minutes. It is foreseen that one application form takes up to ten minutes to fulfill.
All of the visa-exempt third country nationals will have to follow a few steps in order to be able to get an ETIAS.
Before you start to make your application make sure that:
- You have sufficient funds in your bank
- You have a strong internet connection
How to Apply Online for ETIAS?
Each traveler should apply online prior to their travel in order to receive an ETIAS. However, the application does not guarantee you that you will get the ETIAS. The information you have given will be processed to the other EU databases, where a decision will be taken whether you shall be granted with an ETIAS or rejected.
The application asks for basic personal information as:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Information regarding your parents
- Passport details
- Nationality details
- Valid email address
- Phone number
It will also ask questions related to:
- Employment history
- Details regarding past trips in Europe
- Medical condition
- Drug use
- Criminal history
- Security information
Apart from the visas, the European Travel Information and Authorization System does not require biometric data as fingerprint scanning.
At the end of your application you will have to pay the fee, which is 5 EURO for applicants over 18, and free for applicants under the age of 18. The fee has to be paid online through a valid debit or credit card. If the payment is declined or unsuccessful, your ETIAS application will be put on hold until you can carry out the payment.
If your application gets approved, you will receive an answer directly through email within minutes. However, if your approval is doubtful you will have to wait approximately 72 hours before you get an answer, so take care to apply on time.
Since all the application process is online and very simple, you do not need any printed document like you do when applying for a visa, which saves you a lot of time, money and nerve.
All you need is a Passport which must be valid at the time you are arriving in Europe and beyond your planned departure. The passport must contain a machine-readable section on the biographic details page. Also, although not a universal requirement, your passport may need to be an electronic passport bearing the electronic passport sign, or chip.
Normally, the application will firstly be screened across various systems as the SIS / VIS / EUROPOL DATA / SLTD (Interpol) / EURODAC / ECRIS etc., the ETIAS screening rules as well as the ETIAS watch list, whether the data recorded in the application file corresponds to the data triggering a hit. If not, the application will be handled manually by the competent authorities. In these cases a decision on the issuance or refusal of an application will take no more than 96 hours from the time of the application submission.
If you are granted with an ETIAS, you will have the right to use it for five years. After five years, it will expire, therefore you will have to apply for another. If your passport expires before your ETIAS then you will have to apply for another ETIAS with your new passport.
If your application is refused you will receive the reasons for the refusal on your email, as well as the information of the authority or the country that took such decision.
Boarding and Arrival at EU
You are permitted to use your ETIAS only for transit, tourism and business travel (and not for working or studying, neither the less living in the Schengen Zone).
Your ETIAS will be checked upon your arrival to the Schengen, whether you arrive by air land or sea. You will already be registered in the database of the ETIAS that you are allowed to enter the Schengen Zone. However, print your travel authorization that you will receive in your email and take it with you.
Keep in mind that the travel authorization is not always an automatic right of entry or stay since the border guard is the one who will take the final decision.
United Kingdom Case
It is still unclear how the United Kingdom residents will enter Europe, once UK leaves the European Union on March 2019. If Europe decides to grant Britons with a visa waiver, then they could fall under the ETIAS Europe Form. Whether this system will be applied to the UK or not, will be known after it definitely leaves Europe, or about that time.