Reader Question: I am a British citizen and have a 10-year residency card. I have lived here permanently for 32 years.
My question concerns my visit to Spain on holiday. We cross from France to Catalonia two or three times a year. No problem for my French husband but will I need Etias authorisation in the future?
To answer this question, we must first look at what Etias is.
A travel authorisation system
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (Etias) is an EU tracking system set to be fully operational by November 2023.
It will monitor the movements of non-EU citizens who do not need a visa for short visits to the Schengen Zone. This group of travellers will soon have to apply for authorisation before they travel to the bloc.
This will be the case for British, American and Australian passport holders, for example.
After a traveller fills in the application form online – a process which is expected to take about 10 minutes – their details will then be checked against EU information systems.
Up to 95% of applications are expected to be approved within minutes, but if further checks are required, the process could take up to two weeks.
When the person begins their journey to the EU, passport control officers will scan their travel document data electronically, triggering a query to Etias. If they have received prior approval they will be allowed to proceed, if not they will be refused entry.
Etias will be similar to the US’ Esta visa-waiver; applications will cost €7 and approval, once obtained, will remain valid for three years. Under-18s will not have to pay a fee, but must still gain Etias approval.
Etias will be combined with a parallel EU Entry/Exit System (EES), which will collect biometric and other information about passengers as they enter the Schengen area.
The combined systems will replace the manual stamping of passports, which does not enable a systemic detection of people who are overstaying the period they are permitted to stay in the EU.
Will British EU residents need to apply for Etias authorisation?
EU residents who do not have EU nationality will not need Etias authorisation to travel to their country of residence, so an American or British person visiting family in their original country will not need to go through the process when returning home to France.
Some unofficial sources state that it “may” be necessary to obtain Etias approval in order to travel between Schengen countries, but a European Commission source has confirmed to The Connexion that the system only concerns non-EU visitors crossing the “external border” of the zone.
The German government information page on the new system adds: “Since the EU has abolished borders between member states, the Etias is not meant for them.”
It also states that people with a long-term visa from an EU member state: “will not need to obtain travel authorisation for as long as you have the visa,” since it will “give you the right to move throughout the whole Schengen [area].”
European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, which is responsible for Schengen border control, states that: “Those UK nationals who are beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement will be exempt from Etias.
“They can not only reside on the territory of their EU host country, but also travel to other Member States of the Schengen area for a short-stay without an Etias travel authorisation.”
It is expected that EU residents travelling within the Schengen Zone will just need to show proof of their residency to border authorities to explain that they do not need Etias approval.
Further details are expected to be published as the Etias start date approaches.