The much delayed introduction of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is now set to take place late in 2022 and become mandatory for all “third country” nationals by 2023. A “third country” is any country that is neither a member of the European Union nor part of the Schengen Area. Third country citizens will no longer be allowed travel to and within Europe using just a valid passport as is presently the case. Instead it will be necessary to complete an online application form seeking ETIAS approval for travel which, when granted, is then electronically linked to the applicant's passport. Without an ETIAS approved passport, intending travellers to Europe will be refused permission to proceed at the point of departure as passports will be screened at all airports, ferry or boat terminals, international bus and train stations and even the Channel Tunnel.
There are three important components in securing and using ETIAS.
An ETIAS application can only be made online and should take around 10 to 15 minutes according to ETIAS information sheets. The form covers the applicant's details including basic information including name, address, date and place of birth, gender, occupation, email address etc.
However, as ETIAS is primarily designed to strengthen security throughout Europe more personal information will also need to be supplied. This will include details regarding:
- Previous convictions for serious crime
- Previous convictions for terrorist offences
- Previous visits to, or stays in, areas of war or conflict
- Previous expulsion or deportation from a country
The ETIAS application will be checked thoroughly and the applicant's name checked against a central database containing information and records from numerous police and security authorities including Interpol and Europol. Should an application trigger an alarm in the security database a refusal will follow or the applicant may be asked to supply further information or attend a personal hearing. It is expected, however, that the vast majority (95%) of ETIAS applications will be approved within a matter of minutes.
The EIAS application process should take only minutes to complete and approval can be expected almost immediately. An ETIAS is not a physical piece of paper like a visa but an electronic attachment to a passport which confirms the holder has been deemed suitable to enter the European area. Therefore it is crucial to possess a valid passport before making an application for ETIAS approval.
The ETIAS is valid from the moment of approval and will remain so for a period of three years. Because an ETIAS lasts for three years and a passport has varying lengths of validity it is prudent to ensure that a passport lasts longer than the ETIAS. Should the ETIAS validity outlast the passport then it will be necessary to not just apply for a new passport but also to apply for ETIAS once again as the original approval cannot be transferred to the new passport.
Not only this but the passport and linked ETIAS approval must also be valid for the full duration of the stay. Failure to meet these requirements will result in the passport holder being turned away at the point of departure or returned home should he or she slip through and arrive in Europe.
Once ETIAS comes into effect, third country passport holders must be approved before embarking on any European trip. The holder may use the ETIAS to enter the EU or Schengen Area an unlimited number of times during the three year period of validity. The only condition attached is that stays overseas cannot exceed a total of 90 days in any 180-day period.
ETIAS is designed to accommodate short trips or vacations in Europe. At a maximum, visitors may remain in the EU and Schengen Area for a block of 90 consecutive days (if so required) whereupon they must leave and not return for another 90 days i.e. when the 180-day period has passed. As long as the ETIAS (and linked passport) remain valid there is no need to apply for a new ETIAS until the three year period has expired.
Under normal conditions an ETIAS will be valid for the prescribed period of three years. However, there are some circumstances in which it may be terminated early, cancelled or revoked. The most common reasons for early expiration of an ETIAS include:
- The discovery of fraudulent or incorrect information supplied on the application form
- Security alerts pertaining to the holder become available to European police authorities
- Terms and conditions of the ETIAS are no longer being fulfilled
It is also possible that the ETIAS will expire while abroad because the linked passport has reached its expiration date. This is another reason to ensure a passport has more than three years validity left when submitting an ETIAS application.
Avoiding Issues with ETIAS
Applying for and using ETIAS should be a simple and smooth process and will be if the guidelines and rules are followed. This starts with filling out the application form correctly and ensuring all terms and conditions are followed.
- Application - All questions must be answered fully, correctly and honestly. Errors will delay the application process and false information will be discovered.
- Validity - European trips must be kept within the allotted time limits i.e. 90 days in a 180-day period and the conditions of the ETIAS adhered to.
- Expiry - There should always be sufficient time on the ETIAS (and linked passport) to cover the intended period in Europe. Extra care should be taken when planning a European trip when the ETIAS is approaching the expiration date.
ETIAS will become mandatory for eligible passport holders from early 2023 and it is vitally important to understand the applicable terms and conditions. Errors or omissions made in the application form may result in the sudden revocation of an
ETIAS and lead not just to ruined vacations but unneeded stress, expense and waste of time. Taking care filling out the application form and adhering to the rules will make future post-ETIAS holidays and trips to Europe just as enjoyable as they were in simpler times.