From 2022 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.
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 2023 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 The new electronic system will replace the outdated and cumbersome process of stamping a visitor's passport and will record or check details such as: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.
How EES Impacts on 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 2023 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.