Switzerland has always been part of Europe, but funnily enough has never been a member of the 28 member states of the European Union. However, it will be one of the countries that will implement the new E.U. Travel Information Authorisation System (ETIAS) once it eventually comes into force. ETIAS is expected to begin in early 2020 according to the latest available information from the E.U. Commission in Brussels. ETIAS will be modelled partly on the U.S. via waiver system, the ESTA. ETIAS is an online application costing only €5 per adult applicant. The information obtained from the ETIAS application will be shared amongst the other countries using the system. The visitor to Europe, once they have got their application approved, will be able to visit any of the Schengen block countries in Europe for a maximum of 90 days using an ETIAS.
Why will there be a Switzerland ETIAS if Switzerland is not in the E.U.?
That’s because even though Switzerland is not in the E.U., it is a member of the Schengen zone. This is another grouping of European countries which all have the same immigration rules. Citizens of Schengen countries like Switzerland can go to any other Schengen country without restriction. All non Schengen non E.U. passport holders have the same rules throughout Schengen. If you need a Schengen visa, for instance, it is valid anywhere in the Schengen block, even if it is not valid in the very few non Schengen countries that are still in the E.U., like Britain and Ireland.
The Schengen/E.U. difference is something that takes a bit of getting used to if you are not European because even though most Schengen countries are actually in the E.U., the rules for Schengen may be a little different from the non Schengen E.U. member countries.
What are the main attractions in Switzerland?
Few people don’t have an image of green Alpine pastures, soaring mountains and shimmering lakes when they think of Switzerland. They also might think of banks in Zurich, gnomes, yodelling, Swiss Army knives, cheese making and cuckoo clocks, although much of Switzerland, like any country, doesn’t necessarily fit the iconic images that foreigners might have of it!.
The Alpine scenery is certainly impressive, many of the villages are picturesque and yes, there are cuckoo clocks, many Zurich banks, serene Alpine meadows, large lakes like Lake Geneva and much more to see in Switzerland. It only has one real problem and that is the country is very popular, especially in summer, and that does mean some forward planning when it comes to accommodation in particular.
Will a Switzerland ETIAS apply to me?
It might in the future. It depends on the country you are a citizen of. ETIAS is targeted at the group of countries which are in the “visa waiver” category. These are countries whose citizens do not need to apply for a visa in advance at the moment, but do not have the freedom to stay in a Schengen zone for more than a stay of 90 days in all Schengen countries. If you are a passport holder of any of these countries (if unsure, check here) you will need to make an online application at least 72 hours in advance of travel.