The European Travel Information & Authorisation System (ETIAS) is the EU equivalent of the United States’ ESTA system. The goal of ETIAS is to streamline the border control and screening process for travellers who are exempted from obtaining a visa before travelling to the Schengen Area.
When ETIAS is implemented, there will be 60 countries whose citizens may enter the EU Schengen Area without a visa. This includes countries that do not yet fully apply the Schengen acquis, such as Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania. Citizens of these countries are permitted entry for business or personal travel purposes for up to 90 days during a 180-day period. Recent security concerns about terrorism, the migrant crisis and COVID-19 have emphasised the need for improved management of individuals entering EU borders. The EU has continuously declared its goal of making travel within its borders more secure. The new system will improve border management and reduce procedure and application times.
The system aims to identify travellers who pose a security threat to the EU and prevent them from entering before they arrive at the border. Travellers from visa-exempted countries will be required to submit an online application and pay the €7.00 application fee before travelling.
The ETIAS application is expected to take about ten minutes to complete. When approved, the ETIAS will be valid for three years from the date of issuance or until the travel document registered during application is no longer valid. It will entitle holders to unlimited entries into the Schengen Area during this time, provided they do not stay for more than the allowed 90 days within any given 180-day period.
The final decision on crossing external borders lies with the destination Member State. ETIAS will carry out pre-travel screening to assess the security and migration risks of travellers benefiting from visa-free access to the Schengen Area, allowing the Member States to deny authorisation to travellers considered a risk or security threat. Appeals can be launched in the Member State that made the decision on the application and in accordance with the law of that Member State.
The regulation establishing ETIAS entered into force on October 9, 2018. Travellers from visa-exempted countries will be able to obtain an ETIAS before their trip to the Schengen Area in 2022. Authorities have not yet published the official date, but the system will not be mandatory until 2023. There is expected to be a six-month grace period from ETIAS’ implementation date, in which travellers are encouraged but not required to complete the ETIAS application. At the end of the six months, it will become mandatory to have completed the ETIAS application to enter the Schengen Area. Relevant travellers who enter or attempt to enter the Shengen Area without an approved ETIAS can be fined and refused entry.
Employers must be aware of their travellers to whom this new system will apply and make sure they have an internal process in place to secure a smooth transition. All employees should be kept up to date about the regulations and requirements, know where and how they can apply for the ETIAS authorisation and which documents they will need.
Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information, or if you require any assistance to make sure you and your employees are properly prepared.