A warning has been issued over unofficial websites offering Etias visa waivers.
The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, known as Frontex, said it had identified “over 50” questionable websites regarding the visa-waiver scheme, which is set to come into force next year.
These websites are of particular concern because, as part of Etias applications, visitors will have to hand over personal information, including passport and credit card details.
Etias will be an electronic visa waiver for nationals of countries that do not currently need a visa to enter the EU, such as Britons, Americans and Australians.
One official website
Despite Etias’ slated introduction not being until at least the end of the year, the statement was released to help raise awareness over the number of unofficial sites in operation.
“While some of these websites are run by genuine businesses, others may not be as trustworthy,” said Francois Laruelle, Director of the Etias Central Unit Division at Frontex.
The scheme will allow for authorised businesses to act as commercial intermediaries for holidaymakers, taking care of the administrative process for visitors.
But Frontex advises applicants to be cautious as some of these intermediaries could, it is feared, charge extortionate fees.
The only official website for Etias applications is https://travel-europe.europa.eu/etias_en, and even intermediaries applying on behalf of someone else will have to use this site.
Applications using the official site will cost €7 – if using an intermediary, any additional costs above this amount will be pocketed by the company.
Using an intermediary will require you to hand over personal information for them to complete the application for you.
What is Etias?
Etias stands for the European Travel Information and Authorisation System. It will be an electronic visa waiver for people of nationalities that do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Area.
As a response to a number of exterior concerns, the EU is implementing the system to strengthen security measures.
With Etias, those entering the Schengen Area from one of the 63 countries that have visa-free access will have to pre-register before travelling.
This will allow the EU to screen arrivals before they pass through a border crossing.
All citizens of visa-free countries will have to apply online and pay the €7 fee for the scheme (although it is free for children and those over 70).
An Etias visa waiver will be valid for three years, and most applications will be processed within a few minutes.
Those arriving from countries where a visa is already required will see no change with the implementation of the scheme.
The Etias and EES projects - closely linked with the overarching goal of increasing border security – have seen a number of delays and are expected to come into force in 2024.
As Etias will tie in with the European Entry/Exit System – which will digitally register entrants to the Schengen Area from abroad to better track their stay within the bloc – it is expected to launch around six months after the EES does.
The UK has also announced its own digital border scheme, to launch before the end of 2024.
It will see those entering the UK have to pay before entering the country, although citizens of the UK and Ireland will be exempt.