At the same time as the U.K.’s Brexit referendum was going through its motions, the European Commission was trying to drum up ways it could enforce more security for the EU member countries. They have of late been encumbered with a spate of nasty terrorist threats and attacks which have damaged some EU citizens’ lives. That is where the suggested Italy ETIAS, or a European visa waiver for Italy, has entered discussions.
What are the expected changes?
Currently, the citizens of a large number of non-EU countries are not required to get a visa to enter the Schengen area. The Italy ETIAS is designed for the nationals of what the E.U. calls third-countries. At the moment officials at frontiers do not know anything about these people until they arrive at the border. The Italy etias proposal would make the visitor from a third country register information in relation to their visit online before arriving at the border of the EU country.
The European Commission states that it would give more confidence to border guards when they see these visitors at their borders. Also a secondary motive would be to assist law enforcement agencies who are given the responsibility of combating crime and terrorism. It might mean that each time you wish to visit Europe, you may have to go online and apply for the Italy ETIAS.
What other countries operate a similar checking system?
The most well known is the USA ESTA. The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation attracts a $14 fee and requires that quite a detailed application be completed. If successful, the ESTA remains current for 2 years. Similar to the proposed Italy etias but visitors still are fingerprinted and photographed at the border. The ESTA was initiated following the September 11th attacks some 15 years ago.
One of the differences between the Italy ETIAS visa waiver and the ESTA is that the newer European version is likely to affect many more countries and people than the ESTA. Also, there will be a database packed with information about travellers which never existed before.
This summer Canada brought in a similar online scheme, which hasn’t turned out to be quite as straightforward as was expected and doesn’t become compulsory until 29th September. Turkey has brought in compulsory online visas too.
As far as Britain is concerned it has already been given special status as a non-Schengen country due to its membership of the EU. But with its exit from Europe and lack of membership of Schengen its citizens may too be subjected to applying for the Italy ETIAS unless negotiations with the European Commission see fit to grant UK citizens special status, or whether Britons should be regarded as outsiders along with every other non-EU nation.
Favourable financial gains are likely for EU countries when the Italy ETIAS goes ahead and generate revenues which will likely match what the U.S. is collecting. Estimates point to gains in the billions which will give a much needed boost to the EU budget over time. It appears that apart from the need to tighten up security on European borders the financial inducement from collecting revenue from those that wish to travel to Europe is promising too.
The EU may benefit from its revenue raising efforts but will Italy and other favourite holiday destinations lose tourists as a result of the clampdown? Many people choose holiday destinations which are both safe and are easy to travel too, but with the possibility of an Italy visa waiver, tourists that either visit regularly or wish to visit these destinations may simply change their minds and opt for destinations with less red tape. Some of the countries who may be affected by these changes include Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Britain which has been given preferential treatment as an EU member even though it is not a member of Schengen.
Whatever the outcome of these changes it is likely that EU citizens may feel safer knowing that visitors are being checked before they enter their country. However, those people who have invested in holiday homes in Europe may be worried, if for some reason or another they are not granted an Italy visa waiver and find that they are unable to spend their summer vacation in their investment. Others may have relatives they visit regularly and have never needed to plan their visit but hop on a plane and go.