The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is a visa waiver program designed to protect the borders of the Schengen Zone, a region that spans a growing number of member states within the European Union (EU).
It is a carefully structured system that gathers information from several databases and uses it to process applicants quickly and efficiently. Following a 10-minute application, the ETIAS can determine whether the traveler is a risk or not. If so, the applicant will either be refused access or their application will be sent for manual review. If not, they will be given authorization and can use it to visit all countries with the Schengen Zone.
As you might expect, there is some complicated infrastructure keeping all of these systems in check, including the following.
The ETIAS Central Unit
The ETIAS Central Unit is the main hub. It deals with all of the screening rules and ensures that the information utilized by the system is maintained safely and securely.
Regular audits are conducted to ensure the continued integrity of the system and to maintain proper management protocols.
ETIAS National Units
The National Units deal with ETIAS decisions on a national level. After all, while the ETIAS is designed to secure all member states in the Schengen Zone, those states still have the last word.
In exceptional cases, applicants will be referred to the National Units for final consideration. They may also consult on applications made to other states and handled by other National Units.
The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) is the official law enforcement agency of the European Union. It deals with intelligence and serious crimes across all of the EU member states and it plays a key role in the ETIAS program.
ETIAS Screening Board
The Screening board contains representatives from Europol and all of the Schengen member states. These representatives consult, evaluate, and review, ultimately determining key outcomes such as the progress of the ETIAS Watchlist.
The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex)
The European Border and Coast Guard Agency is also known as “Frontex”. It is a Warsaw-based organization tasked with keeping the borders of the Schengen Zone safe and it does this in conjunction with border agencies and coast guards. It is Frontex that establishes the automated application processing and screening rules, therefore playing a major role in the entire ETIAS operation.