First approved by the European Commission in 2016, it was expected that the new electronic visa-waiver program ETIAS would be implemented in January 2021. Similar to the American ESTA, the European Travel Information and Authorisation System is a method of pre-screening intending visitors to the European Union and Schengen countries in order to improve security and reduce the risks of criminal activity or medical crises.
Travel requirements for third-country nationals
Currently there are more than sixty countries outside the EU whose citizens are free to travel to, from, and within the greater European area without the need for any form of European visa. Unvetted, and with little background information about them, these visitors pose a potential risk to European security particularly in light of recent terrorist activity in Europe and the increase in cross-border human trafficking and criminality.
British passports will require ETIAS approval
Due to administrative delays and operational teething problems the necessity for ETIAS approval for British passports is not yet in effect. This means that British visitors to Europe only require a valid passport for travel although documentation regarding places being visited and travel may be requested at border control points. However, ETIAS will begin to be phased in later in 2022 and British citizens needing a new passport are strongly advised to also apply for an ETIAS if Europe is an intended destination.
Even when ETIAS becomes mandatory in the middle of 2023 there will be a six-month “grace period” when British passport holders may still travel without an ETIAS although this could possibly pose difficulties in some countries or at certain border crossings. In order to be assured of a trouble-free passage the British government strongly advises that all British passports have the necessary ETIAS approval should the holders intend on visiting any of the European or Schengen member states in the near future. An ETIAS is only valid for a period of three years. At this time it will be necessary to once again submit an online application and pay the appropriate fee once again.