The new ETIAS travel authorisation system is not yet officially launched. The E.U. Commission has approved it but like many changes in Europe it needs further approval before it becomes law and it is not expected that it will actually kick off until the beginning of 2020. The ETIAS application that many non-E.U. visitors will have to make is expected to reduce some of the security problems that Europe has been facing lately, including terror attacks and the huge wave of migrants and refugees. It will allow European authorities to screen all those visitors who haven’t needed to get any kind of visa before arriving up to now. Applications which will be made online will be checked against a database of those who have committed a criminal act, overstayed in the E.U. previously or present some kind of security issue.
If Iceland is just part of Schengen why will there be an Iceland ETIAS visa waiver?
That’s a good question. Iceland is not a member of the E.U., but it is a member of the Schengen zone, like a few other countries such as Norway and Switzerland. As all the Schengen countries have the same rules about who or can’t enter the zone and how long they can stay, Iceland is expected to have the same ETIAS rules as the other Schengen countries, most of which are also in the E.U. That means that if you want to visit Iceland first and fly on to somewhere else in Europe, you will need an Iceland ETIAS before arriving in Reykjavik.
Once your passport has been stamped for a 90 day maximum stay, you will then be able to visit any of the other Schengen countries within that time period. What it seems that you won’t be able to do is to use your ETIAS authorisation to go to Ireland or the U.K., both of which are in the E.U., but not in Schengen.
What’s worth seeing in Iceland?
A lot. Iceland is a unique country with a host of geothermal features scattered all over its remarkable terrain. There are geysers, bubbling mud pots, volcanoes and lava fields. You can even go to Iceland in winter as there are hot pools to enjoy in the middle of the snow and ice. However, summer is still the best time to visit Iceland, especially if you are thinking of renting a car to see more of the country than just Reykjavik and Akureyri, the two largest urban areas. Don’t forget to visit some of the stunning; if rather bleak, national parks like Þingvellir and Vatnajökull. The former is a world heritage site while the latter has Iceland’s highest mountain, largest glacier and ice field as well as the largest waterfall by water flow.
Will I need an Iceland ETIAS visa waiver?
As long as Iceland stays as a member of the Schengen zone, it will inherit the same ETIAS rules as any other Schengen country. Whether you need to apply for ETIAS or not depends on your nationality. If you are a citizen of any E.U. country you will continue to enjoy freedom of movement across Europe, including Iceland. Non-E.U. citizens are divided into two groups. The first group includes North Americans, Australians and many others who haven’t needed to do anything up to now before arriving in Europe for a short visit except to have a valid passport. This is the group who will be need to apply for an ETIAS approval once it starts up at the beginning of 2020 (this is the most likely first date). All other non-E.U. citizens will need to apply for a full visa in advance as they do now. To find out if you may need an ETIAS or Schengen visa, take the ETIAS help assessment.