Many people outside Europe have been reading about impending changes in the rules for visiting that part of the world. Even Britons, who are some of the most numerous visitors to favourite destinations in Europe such as France, Spain and Italy, have learned that they will be affected by the new system which is expected to be rolled out in 2023.
What is ETIAS and who will be affected?
For a start, the European Travel and Information Authorisation System or ETIAS is not actually a visa, and is technically the first ever attempt at creating a European visa waiver. It will involve filling in an online application with over 18 year-olds paying €7 fee before arriving in one of the European Schengen countries. If your ETIAS is approved, its all you will need when you arrive along with your passport or travel document. You will be allowed to stay for 90 days in any period of 180 days and you will be allowed to travel freely across the Schengen zone. This is very much like the way the U.S. operates with its visa waiver system for bona fide travellers called the ESTA. In 2016, Canada deployed its own electronic travel authorisation system called the eTA.
Will I need to apply for an ETIAS?
The new changes no necessarily mean all travellers will be affected. It depends on what passports you hold for travel. Basically, the ETIAS will be required by third-country nationals. These travellers were previously able to enter Europe without a visa. There are about 60 nations that will be eligible to apply for ETIAS when the system is launched. That list includes nations such as the United States, Canada, many Latin American countries, as well as Japan and Malaysia, just to mention a few.
Travellers who need to apply for a Schengen Visa are unaffected by the launch of the ETIAS and thus, are ineligible to apply for ETIAS.
What’s the difference between the E.U. and Schengen?
The Schengen zone or Schengen countries have common border regulations, which permit free travel within the zone but prevent anyone else from staying too long without permission. In fact, nearly all the Schengen countries are also part of the E.U. (the exceptions are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). There are also some countries that are in the E.U. but are not in Schengen, such as Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Cyprus.
How much will the ETIAS cost?
The E.U. Commission, which exists to make rules about what affects the E.U., has confirmed the details of the ETIAS system in November 2016. Most regular visitors are hoping that it will only cost about the same as the American ESTA, which is $21, but it was announced to cost €7 for individuals over the age of 18 and free for those under the age of 18.
The ETIAS will last for a period of 3 years, or the date of passport expiry, whichever comes first. The American version, the ESTA, is valid for 2 years once it has been issued, although that doesn’t mean that you can stay in the U.S. for that long. You only get 90 days even if you have been issued with an ESTA. Once you have been out of the U.S. for an additional 90 days, you can then return for another visit using the same ESTA.
Why is an ETIAS required to visit Spain?
The idea of something like the ETIAS has been around for several years, but nothing much came of it until the recent round of bombings and terrorist attacks, coupled with an unprecedented refugee crisis. The Schengen zone countries have been generally quite satisfied with what the rules have been up to now, especially the ability to move freely from one country to the next without having to bother to show passports. However, there has been a feeling that things have been much too lax. It has been thought that some rather unsavoury people have been slipping into Europe because of the lack of control over who is allowed to get in.
The main argument for the ETIAS is that it will allow authorities to vet visitors before they are able to enter the country. If there is anything suspicious about a potential visitor, they won’t be allowed to come to Europe. There will also be multiple traveller data-points that will be shared between the Schengen zone which it is hoped will improve the future security of the bloc.
ETIAS will be required for eligible travellers entering Spain starting in early 2023.