Under the Schengen agreement all new migrants must be registered in the country of arrival but this regulation has given rise to some furore in Italy. Right-wing politician, and Interior Minister of Italy, Matteo Salvini has now threatened the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) with a refusal to comply with the terms of the agreement. The problem has arisen due to the ever-increasing numbers of illegal migrants that have flooded into Italy in recent years. According to Salvini the situation has now become intolerable and the EU has done little or nothing to ease the plight of the Italian government or the Italian people.
As is the case with President Trump and Mexico, Minister Salvini proposes sealing Italy’s border with Slovenia and erecting physical barriers and fences to prevent migrants reaching Italy via the Balkans. Salvini proposes a suspension of the Schengen Treaty until such time as the European Union offers a realistic solution to Italy’s illegal immigrant problems but such a suspension is being refused by the ETUC who claim there are no grounds for its implementation.
Sealed Italian Borders
Minister Salvini’s proposed temporary suspension of Schengen rules is viewed by ETUC as Italy’s way to exit the agreement which would have far-reaching effects throughout Europe. Italy would isolate itself from the rest of Europe as borders with Switzerland, France and Europe would also be sealed and more than ten thousand cross-border workers from these countries could be in danger of losing their jobs. Italy’s withdrawal or exclusion from Schengen would also adversely affect the country’s European trade and tourism sectors and cast doubt over the future of the Schengen Visa system of travel permission.
America, ETIAS and Europe
American visitors to any of the current twenty-eight European and twenty-six Schengen member countries remain free to travel without the need for a Schengen Visa or other form of European visa but a change is on the horizon. Beginning in early 2021, American tourists, students and business people will need to have pre-authorisation to travel in the form of an ETIAS approved passport. ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorisation System and that is exactly what it is. Personal and travel information regarding the passport holder and intended destinations will be mandatory. This information will be screened by various European authorities and security agencies before authorisation to travel is granted or denied.
Various news outlets reported in March of 2019 that American citizens would need to apply for a new European visa in order to visit, or travel through, any of the twenty-six Schengen member countries. This was erroneous and was not the case but ETIAS approval from 2021 remains set to proceed on schedule. Although Americans (also Canadians and Australians) will still enjoy their European visa-free status, some form-filling will be necessary before hopping a flight to a European or Schengen country.
The application process for ETIAS registration consists of a short online questionnaire covering the applicant’s personal details and the current estimated cost is seven Euros or about eight dollars. For registration purposes the applicant must have an email account, credit or debit card and hold a current, valid passport. Once approved, registration lasts for three years and entitles the passport holder to enter, re-enter and travel within the European zone and Schengen area as often as required or desired. Although some refusals can be expected it is estimated that more than 95% of ETIAS applications will be automatically and speedily approved.
The Winds of Change
Nothing will change for American citizens wishing to visit a European or Schengen country until early 2021. Although no European visa or Schengen Visa will be required at that time it will be necessary to have registered with the European Travel Information and Authorisation System and received approval for travel to and within the member states of both jurisdictions.
The main requirements for registration are:
• Valid passport
• Valid email account
• Valid credit or debit card
The passport should also be valid for a minimum period of three months beyond any intended stay in Europe and it is possible that passports more than ten years old may be deemed unacceptable for travel. ETIAS approval is good for a period of three years when it must be renewed and paid for once again.
Details required for registration will include:
• Permanent address
• Contact phone number
• Email address
• Passport details
• Security background questions including criminal record
The new travel authorisation system is designed to screen all intending travellers for possible criminal or security risks and thus improve European security. Intending visitors’ personal details will be stored in a secure central database which can be assessed by police and security authorities both in the countries of travel and the greater European area.