ETIAS is an electronic system that allows EU authorities to screen travellers, from countries whose citizens do not require a visa, to access the Schengen zone. It grants a security clearance for people from these “third countries” to access the zone. This system resembles and works almost the same way as U.S Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
The legal procedure to pass this system began in 2016. Improvements are continually being made, and the system is expected to be fully operational in November 2023. Many activities are being carried out even as the system continues to develop.
The system operates by going through a detailed security check for each applicant to determine if they can be permitted to access any Schengen zone country. Some citizens do not require a visa to travel to the EU for visits under 90 days. ETIAS will be able to keep track and record important information about the visitors. This information will help to determine whether or not it is safe to allow them to enter the Schengen zone.
ETIAS updates for Summer 2022
ETIAS has adopted several developments to continue improving the system. Some of such developments that were recently adopted are explained below.
Financial support for Finland’s border control projects
The internal security of the EU has allocated 1.3 million euros to support the border management projects in Finland. The fund will help speed up projects to completion. Some portion of that fund will be used to modernize border control equipment, including the devices used for self-service.
Finland is also working towards developing border control applications for portable devices that will be used on ports, trains, and any other border crossing point. All these projects aim to ensure smooth passenger flow when the entry and exit system goes live. It will ensure that visitors who want to access the Schengen zone do not encounter any difficulty. The fund will also be used to support the cost of running a petrol vessel.
Complete training of the ETIAS central unit operators
Another development is the training of the system’s central unit operators. The first batch of the training graduated in January of 2022. The exercise aims to equip them with more skills to operate the system.
The initial batch of operators that completed their training included 28 ETIAS application handlers, travel and carrier support operators, and team leaders. These operators will carry out several activities, which include testing the system. They will also provide help desk assistance and process applications when ETIAS is completed.
Visa-free travel to the EU for nationals of Kuwait and Qatar
The European commissions have also proposed to lift visa requirements for Kuwait and Qatar nationals to travel to the EU. The proposal was created after the commission concluded that both Kuwait and Qatar meet the criteria to be included in the list of visa waiver countries of the European Union. This means citizens of these nationals will be eligible for ETIAS once the proposal is introduced.
The proposal will have many impacts, including strengthening the relations with Gulf cooperation council countries. The countries of Kuwait and Qatar are already enjoying a robust economic partnership with the union.
Schengen Visa updates for Summer 2022
Digital Schengen Visa application portal proposed by EU Commission
The EU Commission has proposed the digitalization of the Schengen visa. The modernization aims to help expedite the application process. The application process has been slow due to the lack of modern equipment to carry out the process. That has even discouraged some people because the process would take time before your application goes through.
The proposed digitalization of the Visa will make the process faster. That means many people can carry out their applications in a given time. That will encourage more people to use the system. Some EU countries have their own online application portal for the Schengen visa. With the modernization of the Schengen Visa, people will use a common portal that will streamline the experience. Under the new proposal, the online visa portal that is already existing will be phased out. They will be replaced by a unified system that will give room for processing applications in one common place.
The aim of the proposal is also to reduce instances where travellers submit a visa application to a Schengen country which may have quick visa processing times than their destination country. In general, the proposal will speed up the whole application process.
EU and Belarus Sign Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements
This comes after several years of negotiation. Representatives of the Republic of Belarus and the European Union signed agreements to facilitate the Schengen Visa procedures and readmit individuals staying on either side without authorization.
A ceremony organized to sign the documents took place in Brussels, Belgium. During the ceremony, declarations and visa statistics indicated strong ties between Belarus and the EU. After the ceremony, several Belarusian citizens applied for the Schengen Visa.
After the documents were signed, the Belarusian minister of foreign affairs met with the European commissioner for budget and administration. The meeting aimed to discuss bilateral cooperation within the framework of the Eastern Partnership initiative.
The agreement signed by the EU and Belarus was to enhance the mutual facilitation of visa procedures. The deal was also meant to reduce the visa fees for Belarusians. What most citizens fear is the fee charged. Therefore this agreement will encourage more people to apply for a Schengen Visa.
According to the agreement signed, those who have Belarusian passports will have a chance to apply for visas at embassies and visa centers of European Union nations. Once the agreement comes into effect, the European Union and Belarusians will have to readmit some individuals who do not legally meet the requirements to stay within each other’s territory.
According to the declarations made during the agreement, the agreement should not pose any significant migration risks for the Eastern European nation.
EU Digital COVID Certificate for travel in Europe
Since the Covid virus was discovered, people have been restricted from travelling to different countries worldwide. The European Council has developed a digital Covid certificate to restore freedom of movement. This initiative will have had a significant contribution as people can now have the freedom to travel to EU countries so long as they have the online digital certificate.