This article discusses an increasingly important topic which has come to light in recent time, namely, the European Travel Information and Authorisation Service (ETIAS). Conor Askins and Faraan Babar tell us more …
Conveniently, UK citizens are not currently required to obtain visas when travelling into the European Union (EU). The reason for this is because the UK, along with 62 other countries, are exempt from needing a visa when entering the Schengen area. The EU is, however, planning to implement seismic changes at the end of this year to change the current system, which will affect many travellers visiting Europe, and importantly, travellers from the United Kingdom (UK)!
The Change – ETIAS
The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) will be a new, completely electronic system, to monitor and track non-EU nationals when entering and exiting the EU. The change is expected to come into force from November 2023. To be clear, ETIAS is not a visa, it would be more precise to refer to ETIAS as a visa-waiver programme – not too dissimilar from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) that UK travellers must obtain before travelling to the United States.
The ETIAS will undertake a security screening of each applicant to ascertain whether they can be permitted to visit any Schengen Zone country. The ETIAS Requirements includes the application fields that need to be filled out.
This will become a new entry and exit system (EES) for UK citizens and many other citizens when entering or exiting the EU. The EES is a computerised IT system for registering non-EU nationals travelling for short stays. The aim of the EES is to streamline entry into the EU by replacing the old system of passport stamping, with innovative technology, what can go wrong?
The EES will collect data from the traveller, including biometric data of a traveller’s facial image and fingerprints, alongside other personal information such as full name, date of birth, etc. It is also worth noting if you refuse to provide your biometric data upon entry, you will be denied entry into the territory of European countries using EES!
What are the principal reasons behind the introduction of ETIAS?
- There are many more people visiting Europe, with around 50 million individual visitors last year and over 200 million entries.
- The number of refugees and people seeking asylum for a variety of reasons, including persecution, war, economic benefits etc., has risen sharply in recent years.
- Terrorist incidents have become more frequent and this has had a disturbing and unsettling effect on Europe’s citizens. Countries that have recently been affected are France, Belgium, Germany and Spain.
- Advances in electronic communication technology as well as the use of the Internet by travellers world-wide has made an electronic form of pre-travel authorisation a realistic and practical way of obtaining the sort of information that would prove useful to Europe’s collective border authorities and security personnel.
Which Countries Will I Need ETIAS?
The following countries will require a valid ETIAS upon arrival at their borders:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
This is of particular concern to UK travellers and the travel industry as data collected from 2009-2021 indicates that 7 of the 8 countries UK holiday-goers have visited the most are all on this list (Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, Poland, Italy, and Romania), the one exception is the Republic of Ireland.
How to Apply for ETIAS?
The ETIAS application will be completed entirely online and it is expected to take around 10 minutes to complete. Most ETIAS applicants will be notified either instantly or within a few hours of their approved authorisation. Applicants who are denied an ETIAS will receive explanations of their denial. For example, an ETIAS application may be refused if the applicant poses a threat to public policy, security, or health, or if the applicant has provided false or incomplete information on the ETIAS application.
The fee for making the application is €7.00. The fee, however, will not be payable for travellers under 18 or over 70 years of age.
Validity of ETIAS
- Applicants must possess a current, valid passport with an expiration date no less than six months beyond the dates of travel.
- Holders are entitled to numerous entries and exits from the European zone but are limited to a total of 90 days in any 180 day period. The 90 days can be used in one block or spread over a number of trips as long as the 90 total is not exceeded.
- The ETIAS is valid for a period of three years from the date of approval.
The travel industry and Travlaw has been keeping a close eye on how travel will be affected by the changes following Brexit. The new ETIAS system will impact the majority of UK travellers from November 2023 and the industry needs to be alert to the potential issues this can cause. The refusal of entry could cause problems for the travel industry as travellers may try to seek refunds from their tour operators.
ETIAS places an onus on travel businesses to include in their Booking Conditions and/or Terms of Conditions a section in relation to ETIAS, making prospective travellers aware of the new rule and what they have to adhere to prior to travelling to any country in the Schengen area. As part of a tour operators obligations under the Package Travel Regulations 2018 they must provide general information to travellers regarding visa requirements. Nevertheless, the UK Government’s Passenger COVID-19 Charter offers guidance in relation to the responsibility for conducting research regarding entry requirements to the country a traveller is visiting. It is the responsibility of the traveller and the traveller must not only rely on their travel provider to deliver this information.
Concerns have been raised by some in the industry that ETIAS will elongate waiting times and delays at border crossings, especially during holiday season. However, as EU citizens do not require ETIAS to travel to other EU countries, if you are like Conor and have some Irish blood, it may be time to finally apply for an Irish passport!
Key Takeaway Points
- ETIAS is NOT a visa.
- It is a visa waiver system.
- It will only apply to third-country nationals who are already exempt from the visa requirement for short stays in the EU.
- The ETIAS will not change the visa requirements for third-country nationals who are required to obtain a visa before travelling to the EU.
This article was originally published on: 27 January 2023