Currently, there are approximately 60 countries whose citizens are permitted to enter the EU and Schengen member countries without the need to obtain a visa. These visitors are limited to 3 month stays for tourism, business or transit purposes. There are restrictions whereby visa-free travellers are not permitted to work or to study which will remain in place with the launch of the ETIAS. These travellers will require the appropriate visa or residence permit.
Starting January 01 2021, travellers that currently do not need a visa to visit EU member countries will require an ETIAS. The ETIAS proposal was finalised November 2016. By implementing ETIAS, the EU Commission intends to improve the security of the Schengen area primarily requiring these visa-free travellers to obtain travel authorisation and undergo various security checks prior to their arrival to the EU. The ETIAS would screen travellers prior their arrival to Europe and would prevent individuals who pose a security threat from entering the EU, thereby reducing the likelihood of security incidents involving EU citizens.
How will ETIAS work?
Launch - The ETIAS has a target launch date of January 01, 2021.
Application - The ETIAS must be applied for online prior to arrival to the EU. Each eligible traveller, regardless of age, will require an ETIAS to visit EU member countries.
Eligibility - Citizens of countries that have visa-free access to European Union countries will require an ETIAS. Dual citizens that hold passports to an EU and ETIAS-eligible country will not require an ETIAS if they enter and exit Europe using their EU passport. Applicants with previous criminal history will be able to apply for ETIAS. British travellers will also most likely require an ETIAS in 2021, unless the UK cancels its plans to depart the E.U.
Form fields - The following data will be required for each ETIAS application: personal biometric data (e.g. name, gender, data of birth, etc), passport or travel document information, EU member state of entry, background questions on an applicant's health, criminal record as well as previous EU immigration history.
Fee - The cost of an ETIAS is €7, however, individuals under the age of 18, or over the age of 70, will not need to pay the fee.
Application process - Upon submission, each application will be checked across SIS / VIS / EUROPOL DATA / SLTD (Interpol) / EURODAC / ECRIS etc), the ETIAS screening rules as well as the ETIAS watchlist. If the application is matched to information from any of these databases, the application will undergo manual processing by the ETIAS Central and / or ETIAS National Units.
Application decision - Usually, 95% of applications will receive a decision within minutes of submission. If an ETIAS application is approved, it will be issued for a period of three years or the date of the applicant's passport expiry, whichever date is sooner. Processing times can take up to 96 hours if additional checks are required. However, if additional documentation is required from the applicant, processing times can potentially take up to four weeks. If an ETIAS application is denied, the applicant will receive a reason for the refusal as well as information on the country or authority deciding against the ETIAS being approved. ETIAS refusals can be appealed by applicants who file a request to the EU Member State that has objected to granting the ETIAS.
Boarding - The ETIAS can only be used for transit, tourism and business travel. As ETIAS will be checked by carriers prior to a traveller boarding by air, land or sea. If an ETIAS is not approved, the traveller will not be allowed to board the travel vessel, be it an airplane, boat or bus.
Arrival at the EU - Upon entry into the Schengen zone, a border guard will make the decision on admitting a traveller based on the information in the EES system, the approved ETIAS, as well as the travel documents and disposition of the traveller.
Revocation and Annulment
If an application is deemed to have been submitted fraudulently or the applicant's circumstances have changed, an ETIAS may be revoked if the conditions of approval are no longer valid. A revocation or annulment is performed by authorities in the EU Member State which first receives the applicant.