Will ETIAS Restrict European Travel?
Following a compromise agreement, the European Commission is pushing ahead with plans to introduce stricter and more far-reaching controls on who can enter the countries of the European Union. Under the acronym ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) the new regulations are intended to strengthen security in the face of recent terrorist attacks throughout Europe and to prevent irregular immigration.
Why Europe Needs ETIAS
The chief principle behind ETIAS is to screen travellers and identify possible security threats. The new system will be used to check personal backgrounds of intending visitors to Europe before they travel and refuse access to those who are deemed to be a security concern. It is also envisaged that the new system will:
- Improve and tighten European border controls
- Reduce application times and procedures
- Hinder improper migration and immigration
- Combat illegal cross-border trafficking
According to the EU Commission, ETIAS will make travel within Europe easier and safer and benefit both European citizens and overseas visitors.
When Will the EU ETIAS be Rolled Out?
First proposed in late 2016, the European Commission is pushing to bring in ETIAS as soon as 2021. This date will depend upon any legal challenges or disputes that may arise and is far from being a certainty although highly likely.
Which Countries Will Be Affected by the EU ETIAS?
There are presently 62 countries that are not European Union members but whose citizens do not require a visa when travelling to the EU or Schengen area. These countries range from Albania and Andorra to Vatican City and Venezuela. Currently, citizens of these 62 nations can visit Europe on business or for pleasure for a period of up to ninety days without a visa. With the introduction of the new travel procedures a valid ETIAS pass will now be necessary before arrival in Europe.
ETIAS Application Form
Non-EU citizens who are currently visa-exempt can apply online for an ETIAS pass. The online form should take twenty minutes to fill out and a response (whether negative or positive) should be returned within minutes.
The ETIAS application form requires the standard personal information (name, address, date of birth, gender etc) and must be accompanied by a passport scan and the name of the first intended European destination country. There are also questions related to any criminal record and the applicant’s visits to world conflict zones. Each application also requires a payment of seven euros.
Processing of ETIAS Applications
Once the application is filled in and submitted (along with payment) the system will then quickly check:
- Veracity of the information supplied
- Applicant’s eligibility
- Applicant’s risk factors
If no problems or anomalies are detected approval should be granted within minutes. If, however, ETIAS detects a problem then the application will have to be processed manually which can take from four to fourteen days.
Grounds for Denial of Application
The vast majority of applications for travel authorisation within the European Union should proceed smoothly but some can, and will be, denied if:
- The application contains false or misleading information
- The application is flagged on security grounds
- The application is deemed to be fraudulent
ETIAS is connected to numerous databases across the globe (including Interpol) and can verify an applicant’s information within a few minutes. False information can be quickly detected and a refusal will inevitably follow. A criminal record, or visits to areas of conflict, may also be deemed adequate grounds for a refusal by ETIAS.
In the event of an application being denied, the denial message will give a reason as to why. Depending on the reason given, an applicant can make adjustments to the form and re-submit or appeal the decision.
For Europeans the introduction of ETIAS is of little significance but this may not be the case for Britons. Presently, UK nationals require just a valid passport to travel freely in Europe. This could change when BREXIT comes into being unless an agreement can be reached between the EU and British authorities.
ETIAS authorisation to travel within the European Union and Schengen area is valid for a period of up to three years. However, if the passport to which it is linked expires within that time frame then the ETIAS expires with it. ETIAS news stories stress this fact and also point out that holding the correct authorisation does not guarantee entry into any European country as this is still at the discretion of the nation’s security and border authorities.