From 2025 the EU will roll-out the ETIAS and EES programs that will affect tourism, transit and business visitors. Travellers that can currently visit the E.U. without a visa will need to be ETIAS approved. Traveller movements through the European region will be monitored and recorded by the EES, also known as the EU Entry/Exit System.
In terms of the revised system, visitors from non-EU countries will have to apply for and pay the costs involved with a visa waiver before they are allowed to enter any country that forms part of the Schengen region. Below we explain how the Schengen countries are currently preparing themselves for the upcoming changes.
ETIAS Pre-Travel Screening
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will be a mandatory requirement for all third country nationals intending to visit the European Union or Schengen Zone. The chief function of ETIAS is to strengthen European security, combat terrorism and prevent cross-border crime by pre-screening travellers and denying access to those deemed to be a security, criminal, terrorist or health risk.
ETIAS approval will become mandatory in 2025 and only those third country nationals who possess an approved passport will be allowed enter participating European countries. Applying for an ETIAS is an online process (or via a soon to be introduced mobile app) during which the applicant will be required to supply basic information such as name, address, nationality, date and place of birth, passport details etc.
However, the application form will also require more personal information regarding the applicant's:
- Criminal record, details of convictions and sentences served.
- Previous travel to war zones, areas of conflict or countries with links to terrorism.
- Previous deportation or refusal of entry from EU or Schengen member states.
- Health status if suffering from serious medical conditions or contagious or infectious diseases.
An applicant with serious criminal convictions may have great difficulty in securing ETIAS approval although it is expected that more than 95% of all applications will be granted.
EES will come into effect alongside ETIAS. It is an additional security measure which will work in tandem with ETIAS and whose chief purpose is to improve border control and prevent cross-border criminal or terrorist activity.
EES will monitor the movement of third country nationals within Europe as travellers' passports will be electronically tagged as they enter or leave a country. The new electronic system will replace the outdated and cumbersome process of stamping a visitor's passport and will record or check details such as:
- Passport holder's name
- Type of travel document used
- Biometric data (fingerprints and facial image)
- Date and place of entry
- Date and place of exit
- Previous refusals of entry to a country
Unlike manually stamping a passport, EES can be used to quickly identify and locate visitors who have overstayed the 90 day time limit as allowed by the ETIAS or who may be the subject of a security or police alert. Similarly, EES is also viewed by EU authorities as an important tool in preventing illegal migration across Europe by detecting identity or document fraud.
Common questions and answers about the EES
How will EES fit with ETIAS?
The planned EES system for the EU will ask for additional information when a non-EU visitor wants to travel to the bloc. Apart from their passport information, there will be automated barriers at all the borders. These will record and file biometric data such as facial images and fingerprints.
In the process passport stamps will be phased out and be replaced by a system that will automatically capture his or her details when an individual enters an EU country or leave it. The aim is to make it significantly easier for the authorities to flag people who have stayed longer than the maximum period of time in the EU.
The EES will not apply to citizens of the EU or to individuals who are travelling from one Schengen country to the next. Those who are not EU-citizens (including UK nationals who are travelling to the EU after Brexit) are only allowed to remain in the EU for 90 days. For longer visits, they need a visa.
How will EES impact travellers?
Once a traveller is in possession of an ETIAS approved passport EES will have little effect on how a European trip is planned or spent. ETIAS approval must be applied and paid for whereas EES is merely a monitoring system which records where and when the passport holder entered or left any EU or Schengen country on the traveller's itinerary.
At border crossings and check points third country travellers' passports are checked for validity and details pertaining to the visit are recorded in the EES database. There is no application process or fee attached to EES as it is merely a way of recording a third country nationals' location within Europe so that person can be found or contacted more easily should the need arise.
EES works in conjunction with ETIAS not as a separate entity and is automatically activated when an ETIAS approved passport is presented for inspection. Unless there is a problem with the holder's ETIAS or the Entry/Exit System has flagged the traveller for some reason there should be no impact on travellers when they visit Europe from 2025 onwards. The only possible exception may be a request from border authorities that the passport holder submit to the taking of photographs and fingerprints but this should be a one-off occurrence and the process should be completed in a relatively short time.
Does someone with an European identity card require a visa?
Citizens of non-EU countries who have successfully applied for official EU residency might be exempt from the ETIAS and EES. They will still require a biometric identity card, such as the “carta di soggiorno” in Italy or the “carte de séjour” in France. This effectively means that the 90-day limit also does not apply to them.
No information is, however, available at this stage on exactly how the automated barriers that will be set up at border crossings will be able to identify a visitor as an EU resident when he or she does not have an EU passport.
Is there more information available about the planned EES barriers?
At this stage, all that is known is that EU countries are getting ready to put in place automated barriers that will perform the necessary EES checks.
France plans to set up self-service kiosks at the various airports where visitors will be able to pre-register their personal details and biometric data. These individuals will then have to report to a border guard in order to be verified. Austria and Germany have already announced that they plan to install a similar system at their airports.
For travellers who arrive at one of France's sea or land borders by car, tablet devices will be made available to capture their details. Italy has earlier announced that it plans to introduce additional automated gates at each of its main airports and to add about 600 self-service kiosks.
Norway is meanwhile getting ready to test what it calls 'automated camera solutions' that will be controlled by the border guards.
Is it likely that EES will result in long delays at the borders?
With the EU getting ready to install large numbers of digital barriers, travellers may be concerned that it will result in significant disruptions at border crossings. Quite a few EU nations have complained about not being allowed sufficient time to do proper tests on these barriers before they are introduced.
Even people who have EU residency permits could find themselves experiencing long delays.
A document which the EU council released in November 2022 shared comments from a number of different EU countries about the proposed system. Germany and Austria were especially concerned about the possibility of long waiting times at borders.
Austrian authorities, for example, said that the added tasks that will result when the EES system is introduced are expected to cause a temporary yet drastic increase in processing times.