Reader’s questions on ETIAS

| March 27, 2022
Reader's ETIAS Questions

Who decided that ETIAS was necessary and to whom does it apply? What is ETIAS? Where does it apply and how long does it last? When will it be finally introduced? Why do travellers need an ETIAS? These are the most common questions about the new European pre-travel screening system that tourists and business people have regarding ETIAS and its introduction which this article will endeavour to answer as simply and briefly as possible.

Who needs ETIAS?

ETIAS, the European Travel Information and Authorisation System, is the brainchild of the European Commission and was first proposed in 2016. It is based on, and largely follows, other electronic pre-travel screening protocols such as those in operation in the United States, Canada and Australia and there is a strong probability that the United Kingdom may also introduce its own variation of the system to screen intending visitors to Britain.

As the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Union following Brexit its citizens are now deemed to be “third country” nationals and will no longer enjoy the freedom of movement across Europe that was (and is currently) the norm. As is the case with approximately sixty other nations across the globe it will, in the not too distant future, be necessary for citizens of many countries intending to visit Europe to have an ETIAS approved passport to even board a ferry, train or take a flight to European or Schengen countries.

What is ETIAS?

ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorisation System and is basically an electronic travel authorisation, yet not a visa. As is, or was, the case with a visa, applicants must supply various pieces of information to the relevant authority and based on this information a visa is granted or denied.

Similarly, ETIAS requires information from the applicant but this goes into more detail including specifics regarding criminal or terrorist activity as well as information concerning serious or transmittable medical conditions.

Once the form has been completed, and the information supplied checked through various security databases, the successful applicant will be granted an ETIAS which is not a paper document but an electronic link to the applicant’s passport. When screened at border security checks the ETIAS approval will be displayed to the authorities and the passport holder permitted to enter or leave any of the European Union and Schengen States covered by ETIAS.

Where is ETIAS required?

As the European part of the ETIAS description suggests an ETIAS approved passport will be required for all non-European Union citizens for entry to, and travel throughout, the greater European area. This includes not just EU member states but also all those countries in the Schengen Area that are not part of the European Union.

Once ETIAS is introduced and mandatory, eligible travellers will require ETIAS approval to visit any of the 27 EU Member states as listed here:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden.

In addition to these EU Member states there are four other countries that are not part of the EU but are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and covered under the Schengen Agreement where an ETIAS will also be required. These four countries are:

  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway
  • Switzerland

It should be noted that there are also three European microstates which are de facto Schengen members due to their geographical positioning and the necessity of passing through Schengen or EU member states to reach them. These microstates are:

  • Monaco
  • San Marino
  • Vatican City

Intending visitors to these three microstates will also require ETIAS approval before departing to any of these destinations.

When does ETIAS come into effect?

ETIAS was first proposed in 2016 and approved by the European Parliament in July of 2018. The system was originally scheduled to come into effect at the beginning of 2021 but technical, legal and operational difficulties have seen this start date put back on several occasions.

ETIAS is currently envisioned by the European authorities to now commence towards the end of 2022 but this is not a firm commitment and a further delay is not ruled out.

Why is ETIAS necessary?

The primary purpose of ETIAS is to improve security throughout the greater European area. As is the case with a paper visa, applicants must fill out a questionnaire supplying basic personal information such as age, gender, place and date of birth etc. Unlike a standard visa application, however, applicants must also provide details of serious criminal or terrorist convictions, visits to areas of conflict and also supply information regarding serious or transmittable medical conditions.

Information provided by an applicant is checked against numerous international databases before an ETIAS is granted or denied based on a risk assessment of an individual. It is expected that ETIAS approval will be granted to over 95% of applicants and those who are refused have an automatic right to appeal the decision.

ETIAS short-term impacts

For the present the introduction of ETIAS will have no impact on third-country passport holders wishing to visit Europe and a valid passport will suffice. From late 2022, however, it may become necessary to ensure passports are ETIAS approved if a European trip is planned or likely. Without ETIAS approval, if an unauthorised traveller makes it to Europe he or she is likely to be returned immediately to the place from which the trip originated.

Currently, an ETIAS is set to cost €7 (£6) per application but is free for applicants under 18 and over 70 years of age. Applications can only be made online and the ETIAS is valid for a period of three years.