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All You Need To Know About ETIAS: What It Is, Dates And How It Will Affect Travel

/ 08:24 AM July 28, 2020

In recent years, Europe has been implementing new systems and protocols for international travel. This is intended to make Europe safer and encourage tourism.

Passport covered by a toy plane over a ocean backdrop

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A big part of this trend is the new ETIAS (Europe Travel Information and Authorization System), an electronic process that is designed to streamline border control processes and keep better track of third-country nationals entering the Schengen Area.

Those who are used to traveling to Europe visa-free should keep an eye on ETIAS. Although fundamentally different from a Schengen visa (ETIAS is a visa waiver), the new travel authorization will become mandatory for those who can currently visit the area without a visa.

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So, will you need an ETIAS, and when exactly? In this article, you’ll find useful information for those planning a trip to Europe, including:

  • What is ETIAS
  • When ETIAS will be launched
  • Who will need to apply for ETIAS and how to do it

What is ETIAS and how does it work?

As mentioned, ETIAS is an electronic travel authorization system that is being designed by the European authorities.

Right now, several countries around the world have agreements in place with EU states that allow their citizens to enter the Schengen Area without a visa. That is not going to change with ETIAS, which is a visa waiver and will not affect people’s visa-free status.

Map of Europe highlighting the members of Shengen

However, ETIAS will become mandatory to allow the European authorities to keep a better record of foreign passport holders entering the area and to provide more efficient services at the border. Thanks to ETIAS, law enforcement will be better equipped to prevent and fight international crimes, including

  • Identity theft
  • Drug trafficking
  • People smuggling
  • Terrorism

The ETIAS system is very simple for travelers, who will simply need to fill out an online application form before heading towards Europe. In just a few minutes, they will have completed and sent their request.

Once approved, the ETIAS authorization will be directly linked to the biometric passport that the traveler will use to cross the European border. Passport control in Europe will, therefore, become quicker, easier, and, when possible, automated.

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Just one ETIAS will be valid to visit all Schengen countries. Eligible visitors who wish to enter Europe for business or leisure purposes will be able to do so for trips of up to 90 days with one simple application.

Do you need a visa to go to Europe in 2020?

Whether you need a visa or not depends on several factors, including:

  • The country that issued your passport
  • The reason(s) why you want to enter Europe
  • The amount of time you want to spend in the Schengen area

ETIAS will be launched at the end of 2022. There will then be a grace period during which visa-free travelers without a valid ETIAS will be advised at the border that they will soon need to obtain an authorization for Europe. After the grace period is over, ETIAS will become mandatory for all those who can currently enter the Schengen countries without a visa. That is more than 60 nationalities that will not be allowed into the Area without a valid ETIAS authorization.

This means that in 2020 and 2021, those who have visa-free agreements with Europe can continue to travel without having to apply for a visa.

Who will need ETIAS in 2022?

If right now you do not need a visa for Europe, it is very likely that you will be required to apply for ETIAS starting from 2022.

If you are not eligible for visa-free travel and need a Schengen visa to see Europe, then it is unlikely that your visa requirements will change. However, it is possible that the European authorities will decide to extend ETIAS to more countries at a later stage.

How do I get an ETIAS?

The ETIAS application is very easy and quick to complete. Petitioners just need to fill out an online questionnaire and submit relevant supporting documents. The whole request can be sent in 3 steps:

  • Fill out the online application form
  • Upload digital copies of your documents
  • Pay the relevant application fee

The ETIAS application form will require information that will be used to identify and screen travelers. That includes:

  • The applicant’s full name, date of birth, nationality, and gender
  • The traveler’s passport information such as document number, date of issuance and expiration, place of issuance
  • Contact details such as home and email address and phone number
  • Security questions regarding the petitioner’s criminal record
  • Travel plans including the intended point of first entry into the Schengen Area

The questionnaire is straightforward and designed so that it can be completed in just a matter of minutes. However, double-check the form to make sure that all the information you have given is accurate. Missing or incorrect information may result in your application being delayed or even rejected. In that case, you will have to fill out a new request and pay the application fee again.

The system will then require the applicant to submit copies of supporting documents electronically. A copy of the biometric page of a valid and eligible passport, for example, will be necessary. Other documents may be required depending on the traveler’s specific circumstances.

After paying the application fee, all communications (including the approved ETIAS authorization) will be sent via email at the address provided in the application form.

How long does it take to get an ETIAS?

ETIAS is an electronic visa waiver and therefore, it will take significantly less than traditional paper visas to obtain. Most applications will be reviewed and processed within a few working days or even hours.

However, some forms will take longer. In most cases, that will be due to public holidays or the information being incorrect or incomplete. In that case, the European authorities may ask the applicant to submit further documentation.

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