ETIAS or What is in store for visa-exempt foreign nationals

Have you heard about ETIAS? If not, you surely will soon. ETIAS or the European Travel Information and Authorisation System is a new system of the European Union that will apply to visa-exempt non-EU nationals. They will soon have to acquire an electronic travel authorisation before travelling to the Schengen states. The launch of the system is planned for 2023.

What is the situation for visa-exempt foreign nationals now, and what will change with ETIAS?

Under the current system, foreign nationals who are not required to have a visa to travel to Schengen states can travel there with just a passport. The list of countries whose nationals are exempt from the visa requirement was established by the Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (EU) 2018/1806, and as of today, there are about 60 countries on the list. Travels for tourism, visits, medical or business purposes do not need to be announced or authorised in advance. Based on visa-free travel, a foreign national can stay in the Schengen area (repeatedly) for up to 90 days in the preceding 180 days, and they must leave the Schengen area no later than on the 90th day. However, if a foreign national resides in a Schengen state that has a separate bilateral treaty on visa exemption with their country of origin, they can under certain conditions stay in the given country beyond the limits of the abovementioned Regulation EU.

Along with the launch of ETIAS, the persons concerned will now have to acquire a travel authorisation before travelling to the Schengen area via an online application form. Each application form is subject to an administrative fee of EUR 7. The travel authorisation will be valid for 3 years or until the expiration date of the travel document of the registered applicant, whichever comes first.

How should ETIAS work, and what is its purpose?

ETIAS is comparable to ESTA, which applies to visa-exempt travellers to the USA, or the travel registration system eTA used for travels to Canada, both of which work similarly.

The implementation of ETIAS will allow the relevant authorities of Schengen states to carry out tentative screening of this category of foreign nationals travelling to the Schengen area and deny their travel authorisation if necessary. The system should help strengthen the EU’s internal security, prevent unauthorised immigration, protect public health, and limit delays at borders. The system will compare data with EU databases (e.g., SIS, VIS, EUROPOL DATA, EURODAC, ECRIS) and the Interpol database to identify individuals who may present a risk in one of these areas before they even reach the external borders of the Schengen area. It is expected no record will be found for most applications, and travel authorisation will be issued within minutes. If there was a record or other issue requiring further investigation, the relevant authorities must assess the application within 96 hours of its submission or provision of the additionally requested information.

Air and sea carriers will be obligated to confirm before the travel whether third-country nationals, to whom the requirement of travel authorisation applies, have a valid travel authorisation.

How has ETIAS been developing, and in which phase is it now?

The legal procedures to approve ETIAS began in 2016. On 5 September 2018, the EC passed a regulation establishing the system. What followed was a number of negotiations on the rules of functioning, linking ETIAS to relevant EU databases etc. Final legislative steps are being approved. At the end of January 2022, the first group of operators of the central ETIAS unit finished a three-month training programme; the system is now being tested, the first applications are being processed and issues are being addressed and resolved. The obligation for visa-exempt foreign nationals to apply for travel authorisation is expected to be enforced in the first half of 2023.

For whom will ETIAS be mandatory?

  • for third-country (non-EU) nationals exempt from the visa requirement

What will be the fee for the travel authorisation, and how long will it be valid for?

  • a fee of EUR 7 will be charged upon submission of the application
  • the travel authorisation will be valid for 3 years or until the expiration date of the travel document of the registered applicant, whichever comes first

We will continue monitoring the preparation of the ETIAS system and will inform you when it is launched. Members of the Deloitte Immigration Team will be happy to help you with any practical questions about filling the electronic travel authorisation in the future.

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