European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is a visa waiver pre-screening program for visa-exempt visitors who wish to enter the territory of the European Union starting January 1, 2021. The automated IT system is capable to identify any risks associated with a visa exempt visitor traveling to the Schengen Area.
The main idea behind the scheme is the strengthening of external border controls and the enhancement of security within these borders.
It is estimated that around 30 million people will enter Europe each year with an ETIAS starting in 2021. Currently, there are 60 countries who have established agreements on visa-free travel with the European Union, the residents of which are permitted to enter the Schengen Zone without the need to obtain a visa.
However, these agreements only permit the residents of third-world countries to remain in the Schengen Area for a period of 90 days within 6 months, what many visitors have been violating. They too are not permitted to work, which rule has also been broken by quite a lot of them. That is one of the reasons, why the EU has established ETIAS as well, in order to prevent people overstaying and working illegally, as well as to stop people with criminal records and other inconvenient people from entering.
- make advance checks of those who wish to enter the territory
- deny travel authorization, if necessary, to visa-exempt third-country nationals traveling to the Schengen area if the person is seen as a potential threat or risk to the EU
- improve internal security of the territory as a whole and of each member state
- prevent illegal immigration
- limit public health risks, and to reduce delays at the borders by identifying persons who might pose a risk in one of these areas before they arrive at the external borders
Though no one will be able to obtain an ETIAS before January 1, 2021, one and a half years to go, the application process has already been known. There are some specific steps one will have to follow in order to obtain this travel authorization that gives to its holder the right to enter the Schengen Zone.
Step 1 – Make sure you are eligible for an ETIAS!
Check the list given above on “Who needs an ETIAS”, and if your country is not there then you probably need to apply for a normal visa. If your country is part of the Schengen then you will not need to obtain an ETIAS to move throughout the area, since its member states have abolished the internal borders between each other.
Step 2 – Start an online application!
Before starting your application process, make sure you have the sufficient funds in your bank for the 7 euros fee that has to be paid in order to get your ETIAS application processed. You will need a strong connection for it, since if the internet connection stops in the middle of your application then you may have to start it from the beginning and face other problems throughout the second attempt.
Step 3 – Complete the online application form!
The application form will ask you some specific information about you, which you must give in order to be considered for an ETIAS. Give correct and honest information that complies to your passport and other documents
Step 4 – Make sure your passport is valid!
Unlike when applying for a visa, during your ETIAS application, you will not need to submit a large number of documents, which take time and energy to obtain. All you have to do is to make sure your passport has the necessary validity as set by the EU council rules on ETIAS, which requires your passport to be valid at the time you are arriving in Europe and beyond your planned departure. The passport must as well contain a machine-readable section on the biographic details page.
Step 5 – Application Processing!
After you have submitted your application, what happens next is no longer in your hands. The application will first be screened across various security systems created by the Schengen as the SIS / VIS / EUROPOL DATA / SLTD (Interpol) / EURODAC / ECRIS etc., the ETIAS screening rules as well as the ETIAS watch list. These systems will come up with data on you if your file corresponds to the data triggering a hit.
Normally, if the system does not find any information that may suggest you are a potential risk for the Schengen or the EU, you will be issued an ETIAS within 96 hours. On the other hand, if the system finds something suspicious about you, then your application will be refused and you will have to apply for a visa instead. However, in case your ETIAS application is refused you will still get an email with the reasons on the refusal.
Step 6 – Boarding and arriving at the EU!
After you get the confirmation that you have been granted with an ETIAS, you can travel to Europe. However, keep in mind, that the ETIAS, just like the visa does not grant you with an automatic right to enter the borders of the EU, since it is the border guard who will give the final decision whether you shall be permitted to enter or not.
The border guard will check the ETIAS database whether you have been granted with travel authorization or not, then decide if you should be permitted to pass.