Article updated August 30 to clarify rules for EU residents
The European Commission is set to launch a visa waiver system that will apply to people in 59 non-Schengen countries, including the UK, the US, Canada, and Australia.
The process is called Etias (EU Travel Information and Authorisation System), and, under current plans, will enter into force on January 1, 2023.
Currently, people with visa-free access to the EU can enter the bloc without any travel authorisation. This will change with Etias, which will require these people to apply online for an Etias before travelling. There is a €7 fee.
It is part of a digital overhaul of security systems aimed at monitoring people entering and exiting Schengen countries.
What is Etias?
The European Commission states that it is not a visa – the process will be much simpler, quicker and cheaper – but it will work in a similar way in the sense that you will have to apply to get Etias approval before you travel to an Etias country.
The details you include in your application for an Etias will be checked against various European databases to ensure you are not a security threat.
It is similar to the US ESTA visa waiver programme.
It will not be an actual document, but your Etias authorisation will be checked against databases using information from your travel documents.
Who will be affected by Etias?
- Passport holders of 59 countries who want to travel to Schengen member countries, including nationals of the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (See a those in yellow at this link)
- Note that this includes visiting the EFTA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), as well as the European microstates of Monaco, Andorra, San Marino and Vatican City
- It will also apply if visiting certain states that are well-advanced with the process for joining Schengen, such as Croatia
The Republic of Ireland does not fall under any of these, so it will be possible to travel there without applying for an Etias.
It will be needed for entering an Etias country for purposes including tourism, business or transit.
What about people who are non-EU nationals living in France?
Etias is aimed at non-EU visitors who seek to enter the Schengen area and are visa-exempt, aiming to screen them before they enter the area, where border-free travel is possible. It will notably be checked at Schengen border crossing points, eg. when coming from the UK into France.
It is not therefore intended to apply to foreign people who are already living legally in the Schengen area.
Britons living in France and seeking to go back to the UK and return to France should therefore not be concerned, and will just show their residency card as proof.
Most travel within the Schengen area is not subject to any border checks, for example to drive to Spain from France.
As Etias is about visitors travelling into the Schengen area, it will also not be required for a foreign non-EU resident living in France and wishing to fly to another country within the area.
How much will it cost?
An Etias will cost €7. It will be free for everyone under 18 and over 70.
How will I apply?
You must apply for an Etias online. Postal applications are not accepted. The only documentation you will need is your travel document, such as a passport, the European Commission has stated.
It will be possible to fill out an application on behalf of someone else if that person is unable themselves to apply.
How long will the application process take?
The European Commission states that it will take less than 10 minutes to complete.
It states that around 95% of applications will then be approved within minutes. Where more checks are required, it could take up to 96 hours.
If additional documentation is required from the applicant, processing times can potentially take up to four weeks.
What details will an Etias application require?
- Personal data (e.g. name, gender, data of birth, etc)
- Passport or travel document information
- The first country you are entering
- Background questions on health, criminal record and previous EU immigration history
Can my application be rejected?
Yes. If it is rejected, applicants will be given a reason for it and can appeal.
It should be noted that even if you are issued with an Etias after your application, the final decision to allow you entry to an Etias country will lie with the border agent.
How long will an Etias be valid for?
An Etias will be valid for three years or until the date of the applicant's passport expiry, whichever date is sooner.
An Etias can be revoked within this timeframe if an applicant's situation changes.
What else will Etias change?
Once the Etias system is in place, everyone who requires an Etias to enter an Etias country will need to ensure they have:
- A passport that is less than ten years old
- A passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the last date of travel
- Have the necessary Etias approval to travel
- Have a passport with an electronic chip
Why is the European Commission introducing Etias?
The main aim of Etias is said to be to provide a database of travellers in a bid to tighten security in Schengen countries.
However, one unofficial website, etias.com, notes that it could also provide a financial boost to the European Commission.
“If each Etias applicant is required to pay €7, the predicted revenue for 2023 might be as much as €200million,” it claims.