Do Hong Kong citizens need to obtain a visa for European travel?
By the end of 2022, the European Commission will implement a new visa waiver system for passport holders from Hong Kong, as well as around 60 other countries. The European Travel Information Authorisation System (ETIAS) will go into effect with the intention of building a safer pre-travel system for tourists wishing to visit the Schengen Area of Europe.
Once the ETIAS has been granted, Hong Kong tourists will be granted entry into the Schengen Area for 90 days over a period of 180 days. That means that if a traveller stays in Europe for 60 days with a valid visa wavier before exiting, they would only have 30 more days of eligibility over the next 120 days (the remaining duration of their ETIAS).
Should a traveller exit the Schengen Area and wish to re-enter within that timeframe, there would be no need to apply for an additional ETIAS. Instead, they would simply be required to show border authorities their original waiver.
ETIAS is not a visa. As opposed to traditional visa applications, the ETIAS visa waiver can be completed entirely online. This means that Hong Kong citizens do not need to visit a consulate or embassy and that they will be able to apply for the waiver from anywhere in the world that they have internet access.
ETIAS requirements for Hong Kong citizens
Hong Kong nationals are eligible to apply for the ETIAS waiver for travel to the Schengen Area. Below is a list of requirements that each traveller must have should they wish to apply for the ETIAS:
- A valid Hong Kong (or other ETIAS approved country’s) passport.
- A credit or debit card, which will be used to pay the application fee.
- An active email address so that the decision on whether or not the waiver has been granted can be communicated.
It is of absolute importance that applicants pay close attention to the information they enter while filling in the application. Any wrong information, whether entered on purpose or by accident, has the potential to result in a delay or outright rejection.
The ETIAS application process for Hong Kong citizens
In addition to the list of items above, travellers wishing to apply for the ETIAS must also be ready to provide the following during the application process:
- Personal information that will include the traveller’s full name, their date of birth, their place of birth, and their gender.
- Contact details including their current address of residence, a valid email address, and a current phone number.
- Passport details including the applicant’s passport number and country of issue, the date of issue, and the date of expiration.
- Travel plans such as which country traveller intends to enter and which other countries they intend on visiting. Because the Schengen Area has borderless travel once inside, applicants will not be required to give an exact itinerary but instead will be asked to provide an outline of their intended plans.
Additionally, travellers should be prepared to provide answers to questions dealing with their criminal history and their health.
Similar programs to the ETIAS, such as in the United States, grant travellers a visa waiver at around a 95% approval rate. European authorities expect a similar figure when the ETIAS is implemented.
Once granted, the recipient will receive an email. That email should be printed out and kept with their passport so it can be shown to transport authorities in their departing country, as well as upon arrival when entering the Schengen Zone. Note: The ETIAS does not guarantee entry into Europe, that decision is ultimately made by the border authorities.
If the ETIAS is denied, the traveller will receive an email explaining the reason(s) for the rejection. An appeal process will be allowed, and applicants will need to make that appeal directly to the country where they have stated they will enter into the Schengen Area. In other words, if their flight is scheduled to land in Berlin, they would make their appeal to Germany.
Why the need for ETIAS?
Travellers wondering why the European authorities are adopting a stricter policy, the answer is largely about security and safety.
In November 2016, the European Commission voted to implement the ETIAS program following a rise in the number of terrorist attacks across the continent. Authorities believe that the waiver system will be an efficient and secure way to screen travellers without forcing them to go through the process of acquiring a traditional visa. Although it may appear to some to be an unnecessary inconvenience, the ETIAS will ultimately ensure a safer Europe for both its citizens as well as its visitors.