ETIAS stands for the EU Travel Information & Authorisation System. The ETIAS system 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 currently exempted from obtaining a visa before travelling to the Schengen area.
There are currently 61 countries whose citizens may enter the EU Schengen area without a visa. 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 and the migrant crisis have called for improved management of individuals entering EU borders. The EU has continuously declared its goal of making travel within its borders a more secure experience. 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 even before they show up at the border. Travellers from visa-exempted countries will be required to submit an online application as well as pay the application fee (EUR 7,-) prior to their travel.
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 end of validity of the travel document registered during application.
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 benefitting from visa-free access to the Schengen area, and thus allow Member States to deny authorisation to travellers considered a security threat, or a risk.
The regulation for the establishment of the European Travel Information Authorization System has entered into force on October 9, 2018. In practice, travellers from visa-exempt countries will have to obtain an ETIAS prior to their trip towards the Schengen Area, as of January 1, 2021.
The introduction of ETIAS will add an extra administrative step for all employees from visa-exempted countries travelling for business to the Schengen area. To cross an external Schengen border, visa-free travellers will need to have both a valid travel document and an ETIAS authorisation from January 2021 onwards. It is therefore essential that they are well prepared and informed, to avoid any surprises during their travels.