The European Travel and Information Authorization System (ETIAS) is a visa waiver program created by the European Union, to protect and strengthen its borders. It is an electronic authorization that allows visa-free nationals to travel to the Schengen Area without the hassle of securing a visa. Obtaining this authorization will allow eligible travellers to enter the Schengen Area for up to 90 days. This will also allow them to freely move between Schengen countries. Note, however, that the ETIAS authorization is not a substitute for a student or a working visa. It is exclusive for tourism and business purposes only. Those who wish to remain in Europe longer than 90 days for any reason will have to obtain the visa suitable for their situation.
The main difference between the ETIAS authorization and the Schengen Visa is that the process for obtaining the former is automated and is centralized whereas the latter is being evaluated on a case-to-case basis and depending on the discretion of the visa officials of the member states. Further, unlike conventional visas, the process of applying for ETIAS is done online and the applicant does not need to physically appear before an embassy or a consulate. Lastly, an ETIAS authorization is valid for 3 years, multiple entries, but each stay must not exceed 90 days while the Schengen Visa is only valid for up to 90 days.
Securing an ETIAS authorization will prove to European authorities that you do not pose any health or security threat. With the information you have provided during the application, the European authorities will coordinate with Europol and the member states to determine whether you are potentially a security and health risk. This information will also be used by national law enforcement authorities if and when during your stay in the Schengen countries, you will commit a crime or any misdeed.
As stated, visa-free countries are now required to secure ETIAS authorization. Currently, these are countries in the list: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Federated States of Micronesia, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macau, Macedonia, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the, Grenadines, Samoa, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan, Timor Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela.
The following Schengen countries are expected to require the ETIAS authorization from travellers coming from EU visa-free countries: Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, San Marino, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, Malta, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Vatican City, Andorra.
One of the main advantages of the ETIAS authorization is that It is going to be a lot cheaper compared to securing a Schengen Visa because everything is done online and can be paid using debit and credit cards. An ETIAS application will only cost €7 for those between the ages of 18-70 years old. Individuals below 18 or above 70 will not need to pay the fee.
As mentioned, all ETIAS applications are done online, which will only take a few minutes to complete. Applicants are required to fill out the form and answer series of questions which include personal biometric data such as the name, address, gender, date of birth, and passport details. The application will also include questions that will relate to health, security, and previous travel to the EU.
Upon submission, each application will be cross-checked with the database of Europol and member state authorities. If there is a match to any of the database, the ETIAS application will then be done manually and can take up to 96 hours for a decision. If additional documentation will be required from the applicant, it will take up to four weeks. Otherwise, a decision will be released within a few minutes.
If the ETIAS application is approved, the authorization will be issued for three years or the date of the passport’s expiry, whichever is sooner. If the application is denied, the reason for such denial will be provided to the applicant. They can appeal before the state authorities that denied their request.
The ETIAS visa waiver program is set to be implemented by the end of 2022. However, there are still plans of allowing a 6-month grace period for third-country nationals. This means that the program will be in its full effect by 2023.
During the 6 months, the application system will be available to eligible countries for travellers to be familiar with the new system being introduced. During this stage, it is not expected to be mandatory.
Countries in Europe are some of the most visited destinations in the world. It is frequented by backpackers and is in the bucket list for many travellers because of its beautiful scenery, vibrant nightlife, and its historical and architectural significance. For some countries, travelling to Europe will entail applying for the Schengen Visa, which will give access to a traveller to European Union countries. For the lucky ones, a Schengen Visa is not required anymore. They only need to secure an ETIAS authorization.