The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is a potential game-changer for the Schengen Zone. It was initially discussed in late-2016 and while it was slated to take effect a couple of years later, it was eventually delayed to late-2022
But what is the ETIAS, how does it compare to a Schengen visa and other visa-waiver programs, and what will it mean for your future trips to the European Union (EU).
What is the ETIAS?
The ETIAS is a visa waiver program, which means it grants access in place of a visa. If you are traveling from certain countries or intending to stay for a long period of time, you will still need a visa. If not, an ETIAS visa waiver may suffice.
It is very similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) in the United States. It’s entirely electronic and the application process can be completed online. The system will cross-check the traveler’s details against European databases and if there are no issues, a confirmation will be sent to their email address (supplied during the application process).
If the applicant is flagged by the system, the application may be refused or sent for manual review. Such issues can occur when:
- The traveler’s details are flagged as a potential security risk
- They have been to a war-torn country
- They are under investigation for terrorism offenses
- They have been convicted of serious criminal offenses
- The traveler’s details were incorrect
- They made a mistake
- They omitted some information
- There is a suspicion of fraud
- The passport was reported as lost or stolen
Why Was the ETIAS Created?
The main reason the ETIAS was created was to combat the rising threat of terror, but it serves many purposes:
- Security: As noted above, security is one of the main considerations of the ETIAS. Many years ago, only the most dangerous criminals were known internationally and placed on international security lists. It was possible for someone who could be a security threat to move freely from one country to the next. With the ETIAS, if an individual is deemed to be a risk in one country, the risk will be evident to everyone.
- Convenience: The ETIAS program is almost entirely automated, which means the most at-risk travelers are automatically refused access and border security officials can focus on everyone else, thus reducing the risk of dangerous criminals entering the region.
- Easy for Travelers: Travelers who now need to apply for ETIAS were previously granted complete EU travel freedoms and didn’t need a visa or visa waiver. In that sense, it adds an extra step. However, it’s a quick, easy, and automated step and it may help to simplify the travel process for non-EU visitors.
- Immigration: By keeping track of all visitors who enter the Schengen Zone, the ETIAS can prevent illegal immigration.
There is also an inevitability to it. The Schengen Zone is growing and the whole point of the agreement is that all internal borders will be abolished. It means that a resident of France can move freely across countries like Germany, Austria, and Italy. It also means that if a traveler from outside the EU lands in France, they can cross into these other countries without major checks being conducted.
In that sense, the ETIAS program provides some much-needed security by vetting these travelers before they land and making sure they can’t stay for longer than 90 days.
What Does the ETIAS Mean for You?
Whether you need to apply for an ETIAS or not will depend on your country of residence:
Travelers Who Don’t Need an ETIAS Visa Waiver
As an EU resident, you don’t need to apply for ETIAS authorization or a Schengen Visa. Residents from the following countries have more freedoms than others in the EU:
- Czech Republic
- The Netherlands
Travelers Who Need an ETIAS Visa Waiver
If you are a non-EU resident and you could travel to the Schengen Zone without a visa or visa waiver prior to 2022, you will need one after this date. That includes travelers from all of the following countries:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
- Hong Kong
- Marshall Islands
- New Zealand
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent
- Solomon Islands
- South Korea
- Timor Leste
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
Travelers Who Need a Schengen Visa
If you’re not in the EU and your country is not on the above ETIAS list, you may need to apply for a Schengen visa. The application process is a little trickier and lengthier, and you’ll need to visit an embassy/consulate, but it could also grant you greater freedoms based on the conditions of the visa.