At the moment, citizens of around 60 countries are able to visit the European Union and the 26 Schengen Area countries visa-free. However, from 2021, all visa waiver passport holders will first be required to register with ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) before traveling to the Schengen Area. Eligible citizens will be able to submit an ETIAS registration online and recieve an approved ETIAS authorization electronically linked to their passport, which will be valid for a total of 3 years from the date of issue, or until the expiration of the associated passport.
As ETIAS is a multiple entry travel authorization which will allow multiple stays of 90 days within each 180-day period, there will be no need to apply for ETIAS for each trip to the Schengen Area during its validity. There are various other ETIAS benefits to both the European Union and foreign travelers that can be expected once the electronic system comes into effect, including increased security and expedited entry procedures for arriving tourists.
How ETIAS Benefits the EU
The European Commission is primarily introducing the ETIAS electronic visa waiver in order to aid the Schengen Zone security system and further strengthen European borders. It will function similarly to the electronic ESTA system in the United States, by pre-screening travelers from visa waiver countries to determine their eligibility to visit Schengen Area countries. Like the ESTA application, completing an ETIAS registration will involve the traveler providing personal, passport, and travel information on the form, as well as answering some health and security-related questions in order to receive an approved travel authorization.
The information provided on the application will then be screened against the various security databases operated by eu-LISA, including SIS, VIS, Europol, and EURODAC, in order to identify any security risks to the European Union, especially terrorist threats. Any information that brings up red flags, such as indicators of an imminent terrorist attack or other serious criminal offence, will then be shared with domestic law enforcement agencies, helping to close current security information gaps between the authorities of Schengen Area states.
Applicants for the ETIAS will also be checked against serval interpol databases, including the Stolen and Lost Travel Document database (SLTD), the Travel Documents Associated with Notices database (TDAWN) and a dedicated ETIAS watch list, which which will be established by Europol closer to the launch date of the electronic travel authorization.
This screening process will help to determinate any potential risks and allow authorities to deny travel authorization long before suspicious individuals reach external European borders. It will also help to curb human trafficking and illegal immigration, as all travelers will be required to have an approved ETIAS authorization in order to enter the Schengen Area.
How ETIAS Benefits Tourists to the EU
In addition to improving security within European borders, the introduction of ETIAS will also improve safety for travelers, as dangerous individuals will be flagged before they are ever even allowed on transportation carriers heading towards the Schengen Area.
As the ETIAS for tourists will vastly improve border management, the new system will also save travelers time when passing through security controls at the airport and gain expedited entry to the Schengen Area. Those with an approved ETIAS will have already answered security questions and provided key travel information during the online application process, meaning a reduced need for travelers to be questioned about the intent of their travel when arriving at Schengen Area immigration controls.
ETIAS-eligible travelers who previously had to apply for a visa to visit the Schengen Area for short stays will also find that the process of obtaining an ETIAS is far simpler, eliminating the need to apply from an embassy or consulate. The online application will only take around 10 minutes to complete and most travelers will receive their approved travel authorization within minutes. However, applicants are nevertheless advised to apply at least 72 hours before the intended date of arrival in the Schengen Area in order to allow sufficient processing time in case of any unexpected delays.
Although travelers will be able to print a paper copy of the ETIAS, this will not be an obligatory requirement, as the approved ETIAS will be electronically linked to the applicant’s passport, meaning they will simple be able to present the passport used during the application in order to board their transportation carrier and gain entry to the Schengen Area.