The European Commission Office has announced that it is working on the implementation of a new electronic registration system called EES. The acronym stands for Entry/Exit System and will be put in place for travellers holding Schengen visas.
Currently, citizens from the following countries require a Schengen visa, which holds quite a few differences with ETIAS:
- African Republic
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Cote D’ivoire
- Dem. Rep. Of Congo
- Dominican Republic
- Equatorial Guinea
- North Korea
- Northern Marianas
- Palestinian Authority
- Papua New Guinea
- Sao Tome And Principe
- Saudi Arabia
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
- Sri Lanka
Therefore, passport holders from all the countries and territories mentioned above will be required to register in the EES once they arrive at the border aside from having an approved Schengen visa when they visit Europe.
The new EES registration means that these travellers’ passports will no longer be manually stamped by an immigration officer upon their entrance into and exit from any Schengen Area country.
The following countries comprise the Schengen Area —while some of the member states are EU countries, others such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican City, are not:
The Entry/Exit System will affect citizens from all the countries that are required to apply for a Schengen visa in order to visit Europe.
What is EES?
The Entry/Exit-System, or EES, is a large-scale IT system that is being implemented as part of the Smart Borders Package introduced by the EU in 2016. The Entry/Exit System is an initiative that aims to improve general security measures within the Schengen Area borders. This, in turn, will safeguard and increase the security for Schengen citizens and visitors alike.
This new system was planned by the European Union with the purpose of enabling the automatic monitoring of the border-crossing by third-country nationals. This means that it affects citizens carrying passports that are neither from the EU, the EEA, nor Swiss citizens. The scheme will also determine the conditions for access to the EES for law enforcement purposes.
Furthermore, once the EES is fully operational, border control will be achieved without the direct participation of immigration officials. The system includes the installation of passport-reading machines at external points of the Schengen Area such as airports and seaports that will replace manual passport stamping.
What is the purpose of EES?
This Schengen initiative will be established in the near future in order to monitor and screen entry and exit data from passengers arriving at the Schengen borders. The EES will also register traveller’s data when they are refused entry into Schengen member states.
The Entry/Exit System is being implemented in a bid to modernise the management of external Schengen borders. This modernisation will improve the quality and efficiency of external border control efforts in the Schengen Area.
The system is being set in place in order to facilitate border control for member states dealing with an increasing number of visitors, without resorting to increasing the number of immigration officials working at the border.
The EES will also serve the purpose of identifying third-country visitors who do not fulfil entry conditions or whose situation has changed in such a way that they no longer comply with the entry requirements for the Schengen Area.
As soon as the EES is operational, all embassies or other authorities from participating countries that are responsible for the issuance of Schengen visa applications will consult the EES. This will be done in order to determine whether the citizen may be granted a Schengen visa or not, according to EES registrations.
Additionally, the EES will also be consulted by embassies and other immigration authorities prior to making decisions to annul, revoke or extend a citizen’s approved Schengen visa.
Like ETIAS, EES will be operated by EU-Lisa, which is the European Union’s agency for the operational management of large-scale information systems in the area of freedom, security and justice. Meanwhile, ETIAS is an electronic system (not a visa) that will screen and grant or deny visitors from visa-exempt countries authorisation to visit the Schengen Zone.
What will the Entry/Exit System achieve?
Aside from the objectives outlined above, the EES also aims to successfully bring about the following benefits:
- Reducing irregular migration by systematically identifying and addressing individuals that overstay in the Schengen Area
- Facilitating the management of migration flows
- Contributing to the prevention of terrorism and the reduction of serious crimes
- Ensuring an optimal level of internal security
- Informing third-country nationals of the duration of their authorised stay within the Schengen Zone
- Combating identity theft and fraud as well as the misuse of travel documents
Which countries are subject to EES?
The Entry/Exit System will apply to all third-country nationals visiting the Schengen Area under all travel purposes. It is also applicable for both short-term and long-term stays and pertains citizens of countries that:
- Are eligible for visa-exempt travel in the Schengen Area, that is, citizens that are required to complete an ETIAS application prior to travelling to any member state, starting towards the end of 2022
- Are required to carry a Schengen visa
Furthermore, citizens that at some point have been refused entry for short-term visits to the Schengen Area will also be registered in the EES.
How does the Entry/Exit System work?
The EES aims to reduce the time it takes to pass border control upon arrival at the Schengen border. The system will achieve this with devices that automatically calculate the permitted stay of each traveller when they arrive at the border. New EES devices for enabling travellers to automatically cross the border are already being installed at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport in Finland.
The system will also ensure a systematic and reliable detection of citizens exceeding the permitted length of stay. The implementation of the Entry/Exit System simultaneously simplifies and facilitates law enforcement access to visitors’ information.
When a citizen arrives at a Schengen border, they will be required to:
- Approach the EES device
- Scan the first page of their biometric passport
- Turn to face the camera when the automatic gate opens and the additional lights turn on
- Stand still for the device to capture your photograph and compare your physical parameters to those of your documents as well as data stored on the EES
- Walk through the second gates as soon as they open, allowing them to enter the Schengen Area
- If for any reason travellers are not granted permission to cross the automatic border, they will be sent to the nearest border guard
The entire process outlined above should take no longer than a minute to complete. Make sure that you fulfil all the visa requirements to enter the area while you are planning your trip.
The Entry/Exit System will be composed of a Central System, where the authorities of each member state will be able to access their own National Uniform Interface (NUI). The NUI will, in turn, be connected to the Central system through a secure and encrypted communication infrastructure.
Furthermore, a secure communication channel will then connect the EES Central System and the VIS Central System. Additionally, the EES will offer a web service that will enable eligible citizens travelling to the Schengen area to check how many days they are permitted to stay in the territory.
What user data will the European Entry and Exit System store?
The EES will store the following information about every eligible traveler crossing Schengen borders:
- Facial image
- Surname or family name
- First name or given names
- Date and place of birth
- Nationality or nationalities
- Passport number, date and country of issuance as well as the expiry date
- Valid ETIAS or Schengen visa along with its duration and/or validity
- Travel information including the visitor’s points and dates of entries and exits, as well as overstays within the Schengen Zone
EES data security and privacy
EES data will be securely guarded and encrypted using the latest technology. Only authorised immigration or embassy staff of each member state will be able to access data within the EES. Duly authorised personnel such as border authorities, visa authorities and immigration officers need to access the Entry/Exit System in order to enter, amend, erase and consult travellers’ information.
Similarly, member states will be able to consult or access the data stored in the EES for the purpose of prevention, detection or investigation of terrorist threats and other serious criminal acts.
Whether you are a visa-exempt citizen to enter Europe and will require an ETIAS travel authorisation to visit the EU countries, or require a Schengen visa, rest assured that your data will be safe and secure.