Visiting Cyprus? Quite possibly you may require a visa waiver soon if you are not a citizen of the E.U. If you have been to Cyprus (the Southern part) or anywhere in the E.U. before, did you have to apply for a visa in advance before? If you didn’t it was because you were a citizen of one of the visa-exempt countries, and you may soon be affected by a new European visa waiver like system that the European Union has introduced. It is called the E.U. Travel and Information Authorisation System or ETIAS. It will work like the existing American visa waiver system called the ESTA. Basically, if it applies to you, you just go online and apply for your ETIAS before you travel to Europe. You will have to pay a fee, but the whole process shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes and you will still get 90 days in the Schengen zone once you arrive in Europe.
I heard that Cyprus is not in Schengen. What does that mean?
Cyprus is a full member of the European Union, one of 27 countries. However, it is not yet in the Schengen area, although it is expected that it soon will be. The Schengen Agreement is meant to provide freedom of movement for all member countries, some of which are not in the E.U. The immigration rules for non Schengen citizens are standardised, so if you are given permission to visit one Schengen country you can visit all of the others. You get 90 days in all of Schengen in each block of 180 days. In theory, the Schengen “clock” starts ticking when you first enter a Schengen country, but in practice some border officials either turn a blind eye or do not take any interest in anyone’s passport anyway. The ETIAS system is supposed to tighten these irregularities.
Is it worth visiting Cyprus once you need to apply for a Cyprus visa waiver?
It is not expected that the introduction of ETIAS will make much difference to the number of visitors wanting to go there, especially given the relatively low fee of the ETIAS (7 euros). Cyprus remains a very attractive all year round destination. It has a mild winter climate, and is hot in summer. That’s great for beach lovers, especially if they come from Northern Europe or Russia where summers are inconsistent.
Cyprus is not just about beaches and the sun. It has Greek food and restaurants and a Greek ambience. Nicosia, the capital, through which runs the Green Line, separating the Northern Turkish Cyprus with the South, has a lot of architectural interest, while intriguing and charming villages are found dotted throughout the countryside. Many people like to go hiking in the Troodos mountains, refreshingly cool in summer, snowy in winter.
So who will actually need a Cyprus ETIAS?
The E.U Commission announced the ETIAS proposal in November 2016. The system will be up and running by 2023 and will only affect people who do not need a visa for Europe in advance and are not E.U. or Schengen citizens. The fact that Cyprus is not a member of Schengen may make a difference at the start. This may be something that the Cyprus Government will have to work out quite soon. The best advice if you are thinking of going to Cyprus, or any other part of Europe for that matter, is to keep abreast of ETIAS developments.