Infrastructure systems supporting the EU ETIAS

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Infrastructure systems supporting the EU ETIAS

Introduction

On September 14th 2016 the European Commissioner proposed that a European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) be established. The ETIAS will be designed to collect information from all travelers who will be traveling visa free to Europe. The main goal for this is to identify security concerns prior to an individual traveling to the Schengen areas. The ETIAS will contribute to a safer and more efficient management of EU’s external borders while improving internal security and keeping EU citizens safer.

The ETIAS primary goal appears to be to keep EU citizens safer while keeping criminals and terrorist out of the area. There are several things that the travel authorization system aims to improve. The ETIAS will supposedly save travelers time and hassle by not having to go through old fashion security check points at the airport. It will help to improve border management by identifying travelers before they get to the border. Irregular migration will be prevented as well due to the ETIAS ability to identify travelers ahead of traveling dates. The travel authorization system will add to and compliment the visa liberalization policy that is already in place. Most importantly, the ETIAS will be created to help fight against crime and terrorism by identifying anyone who may be a threat to the EU. It is worth noting that the ETIAS will only apply to visa-free non-EU citizens.

The ETIAS system will consists of several different stages that will be put together to ensure the maximum level of safety for EU citizens.  

Image showing the steps of the ETIAS Application Process

Step 1 – Online ETIAS Application

Visa exempt third-country nationals will need to fill out an online application online to begin the process. The application will require personal data such as your name, date of birth, address and more. Travel document information such as that contained in a passport, or equivalent, be submitted online as well. The online application will ask the member state of the intended first entry. Each person who applies will need to answer questions relating to criminal records, public health risks, previous refusals of an entry and any orders to leave the territory of a member of state. If the application is being filled out by a person other than the applicant, the identity of the person or company that they are representing must be proven.

Step 2 – ETIAS Application Submission and Payment

Once the application is ready, a payment fee of €5 per application is required for all applicants who are over the age of 18. This payment will be accepted electronically. When the payment is received, the ETIAS application will be automatically submitted into the system.

Step 3 – Processing ETIAS Application

Automated processing will process data related to travel documents, identity data, and the answer to background questions. Within minutes, the system will provide a fully automated cross-check of information that applicant submitted against other information systems.

The automated process will ensure several things. The process ensures that another travel authorization doesn’t already exists. The process also checks to see if the applicant is not subject to a refusal of entry alert. It will also check to ensure that the travel document used does not match a travel document lost or stolen. The applicant details will also be cross-checked to insure the person applying is not on the ETIAS Watch list. This list would consist of the names of United Nations war criminals, people who have committed crimes or terrorist offenses. There are multiple reasons why an applicant would not pass the automated process and be refused travel authorization. If the applicant presents a travel document that is lost, stolen or invalidated, irregular migration risk, poses a security risk, poses a public health risk, an alert has been issued for them via SIS, or they refuse to provide additional documentation they will be refused traveling rights.

Step 4 – Decision on ETIAS Application

A decision to most applicants can be expected within minutes and the validity can be for 5 years or until the date of travel document expiry. When the applicant has been approved for authorization, they will receive an email that has a clear indication that the travel authorization has been issued along with the travel authorization application number. The commencement and expiration dates of the validity period of the travel authorization will be stated as well. 

When the decision to refuse ETIAS travel authorization has been made the applicant will also receive an email stating that they have been refused travel rights into the EU via ETIAS. There will be a reference to the authority that issued or refused the travel authorization and its location. They will be provided with the place and date the decision was made. The decision has to be made within two weeks. The applicant always has the right to appeal.

Step 5 – Border Enforcement for Authorized ETIAS Travelers

Airline carriers will also consult with the ETIAS Central System to check if third country nationals are subject to travel authorization or not. Based on the carrier checklist once the applicant reaches the airport, they will either be authorized to travel or refuse boarding access. Once at the Schenegen area border crossing point, the applicant will be checked to make sure their finger prints, visual identity and travel documents pass the ETIAS system. Their ETIAS authorization will be checked as well. They will either be authorized to enter or refused EU entry.

Revocation or annulment of ETIAS Travel authorization can happen. The ETIAS travel authorization can be revoked when the applicant no longer meets the conditions of the ETIAS check list. This particularly happens when the applicant is believed to have obtained authorization under fraudulent terms. The revocation will also happen if the security database has a new alert for refusal of entry or reported lost or stolen travel documents. The ETIAS central unit will verify if the alert is valid. If the alert is valid, the Member State who created alert will be responsible for the annulment of the authorization. Revocation and annulment is always done by the authorities of the Member of State.

The ETIAS structure is broken down in to 6 different units: ETIAS Central Unit, ETIAS National Units, Europol, eu-Lisa, ETIAS Screening Board, European Border and Coast Guard agency. 

Systems Utilised by the EU ETIAS

ETIAS Central Unit - The ETIAS Central Unit makes sure that data is kept in application files and personal data is recorded in the system correctly and up to date. They also remove any ambiguous information in the case that a hit happens during the automated process. They will also define, evaluate, test and review risk indicators of the ETIAS screening rules after a meeting with the screening board. The central unit will carry out regular audits on the management of applications. The central unit will implement ETIAS screening rules that will uphold fundamental rights especially in terms of privacy and data protection.

ETIAS National Units - The ETIAS National Units will be responsible for assessing and making decisions on travel authorization applications that were referred to them from the automatic process. They also issue opinions when they are consulted on applications by other Member States’ in the ETIAS National Units.

Europol - Europol establishes and manages the ETIAS watch list. They will be consulted by the ETIAS Nation Unit when there is a follow up to a hit with Eruopol data during the in-depth automated process. Europol will also be responsible for providing an opinion after a consultation with ETIAS Nation Unit.

eu-LISA - The eu-LISA is in charge of developing as well as operating the ETIAS information system. 

ETIAS Screening Board - The ETIAS Screening Board is made up of representatives from each ETIAS National Unit and Europol. They will consult for the definition, evaluation and revision of all risk indicators a long with the implementation of the ETIAS watch list.

European Border and Coast Guard Agency - The last part of this structure is the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. This will be a mandate that ensures the creation and management of ETIAS Central Units. Their duties will be comprised of setting up and operating the ETIAS Central Units. They also set up the automated processing of applications and the screening rules.

Each Member State is responsible for the connection to the National Uniform Interface. They organize, manage and operate the maintenance of the ETIAS National Units for the decision-making process of travel authorization applications rejected during the automated process system. They organize the central access points along with their connection to the Uniform Interface for law enforcement. Each member state can use the automated process for looking in to an applicant at the external border using the ETIAS Central System. 

Public Awareness and Transparency

The ETIAS will also create a sense of greater public awareness. The ETIAS Central Unit will be responsible for providing the public with completely relevant information on what is contained in the application for travel authorization. The public will be able to know the criteria, conditions, and procedures for applying for travel authorization. They will be given information concerning the website and mobile application where the application can be accessed. The public will always be aware of the deadlines for deciding on an application. The public will be aware that possession of a travel authorization does not mean that an automatic right of entry is given. Holders of travel authorization must present proof that they will fulfill entry conditions at the external border.

The entire point of the ETIAS system is keep EU citizens safe by monitoring who travels in and out of the country.