When ETIAS is introduced it will be necessary for visiting non-EU citizens to have applied for, and received, permission to travel in the form of electronic ETIAS approval linked to a current, valid passport. It is now envisaged that ETIAS will become operational in late 2022 and mandatory by the middle of 2023.
Entry Exit System Causing Concern
As part of the ETIAS program the EU Commission is also introducing a European Union Entry and Exit System (EES). The EES is a security system which records information and data on non-EU citizens as they enter and leave countries within the European zone. The EES was scheduled to be up and running in May of 2022 but this has now been deferred until September due to operational and logistical problems. The system calls for biometric checks on non-EU citizens but some large companies have complained that they do not have the necessary equipment in place, have no room for the machinery required or lack sufficient trained personnel.
Fingerprint kiosks and facial recognition scanners require skilled operators and take up space that companies like Eurostar and Getlink (which manages the Eurotunnel) maintain they do not have at present. The Port of Dover authorities have also raised safety concerns regarding passengers having to leave their vehicles to undergo biometric checks.
While the main purpose of the Entry/Exit System is to monitor the movements of “third country” nationals (citizens from outside the European Union) it is also supposed to make travel easier and more efficient for visitors to Europe. However, with no coordinated system in place (as yet) the EES could prove to be more a hindrance than a help for both travellers and border authorities.
Current European Travel Situation
With the Covid-19 numbers seemingly dropping at present many European countries have reopened for business and summer holidays abroad are once more a possibility. For travellers seeking a short European break the situation is quite simple as regards travel. A current, valid passport is all that is required, as has been the case for many years, for travellers of third-countries. Although not strictly necessary, it is also a good idea to carry any documentation pertaining to places being visited and dates of travel such as bus, boat or airline tickets and hotel bookings. Such documentation may be requested at some border crossings and having them to hand will make entering or leaving a country a much simpler and speedier process.
Covid-19 regulations and restrictions, while much less stringent, are still in operation across Europe and intending travellers should make themselves aware of what rules currently operate in the destination country bearing in mind that the situation can change very quickly. Some European countries require a recent negative Covid-19 test while others may insist on a short period of quarantine upon arrival. It is also important (but often overlooked) to check any quarantine requirements on returning to their home countries as these may be required for passengers returning from certain countries with high infection rates.