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What You Need to Know About ETIAS, the EU’s New Travel Document

(Credit: pixabay) What you need to know about ETIAS, the EU’s new travel document
February 12
3:47 PM 2020

The next time you take a business trip -or vacation- to Paris, Barcelona or Milan, your passport may not be enough to be granted entry into Europe's Schengen Area.

Thanks to the visa waiver agreement over 60 countries share with the EU, visitors are still able to enter Europe with just their passport throughout 2020. This, however, will change very soon.

The European Union has been working on the implementation of the ETIAS since 2016. The European Travel Information and Authorization System is expected to be fully operational by 2021.

The document will be required of all visa-exempt passengers visiting the Schengen Area for short trips for business, leisure, tourism, health -and even transit en route to a third-country destination.

As of 2021, the ETIAS will be a mandatory travel authorization for US nationals -and other tourists from eligible countries- who wish to visit any of the 26 member states for short stays.

What exactly is the ETIAS?

The question of What is ETIAS? is easier to address once its similarities -and differences- with the American ESTA, the Australian eTA, or the NZeTA have been established.

The ETIAS, eTAs and the ESTA have several main objectives in common -advancing the fight against terrorism, preventing illegal immigration and fighting crime.

Additionally, the travel authorization systems require travelers to register prior to their departure from their home country.

The European visa waiver, New Zealand Travel Authority, and the US ESTA are all available through a simple online application that can be completed in just a few minutes.

Online registration greatly benefits applicants since the easy-to-use form will save travelers the time and hassle of having to visit an embassy or attending an interview to apply for a traditional consular visa.

Like the US ESTA and the NZeTA, the ETIAS visa waiver is being set in place to pre-screen passengers from visa liberalization countries in order to pre-identify any potential security risks to the Schengen member nations.

Screening the data of visa-exempt passengers will allow authorities to prevent individuals considered dangerous from legally traveling to the European Union.

Once the ETIAS is fully instated, aircraft and cruise ship companies will be held responsible for verifying that travelers have a valid ETIAS before they are permitted to board a vessel destined for the Schengen Area.

Another common trait among all the travel authorization systems mentioned is that governments devise them to enhance border management and reinforce the external frontiers of their territories.

The ETIAS is no different in this sense -in practice, passport control at European airports is expected to be more efficient and waiting times when foreign nationals present themselves at the borders will be significantly shorter.

The ETIAS travel authorization will be a small obligatory procedural  step for all visa-exempt citizens that will allow them to bypass bureaucracy and delays upon arrival to Europe.

How to prepare for the ETIAS

Travelers from eligible countries heading to the Schengen Area from 2021 onwards will have to hold a valid machine-readable passport. The citizen's passport book must remain current for at least 3 months beyond the intended travel dates in order to be able to apply for an ETIAS.

The rest of the ETIAS requirements are just as simple:

l  The traveler must have an internet connection to be able to access the application form

l  The applicant is required to have an email address at which they will receive the travel authorization for Europe, once it has been granted

l  The citizen will also need a means of payment such as a credit or debit card in order to cover the ETIAS issuance fees

Once the applicant has filled out the form and their payment has been received, their personal, passport and travel information will be checked against multiple security databases.

A vast majority of ETIAS applications are expected to be automatically approved within the first 24 hours. Should a red flag be raised during the automatic screening process, a manual revision may be required, in which case, the turnaround time could be extended to up to 2-3 business days.

ETIAS advantages for travelers

As opposed to the ESTA for the US and the eTAs for Australia, Canada, or New Zealand, the ETIAS' greatest advantage is that it grants entry into 26 countries once it is approved.

While other travel authorizations require one application form to be filed per country, the ETIAS offers a single form that allows eligible visitors to access the entire Schengen Area with a single permit.

Additionally, the ETIAS is a multiple entry document intended for short trips of up to 90 days per 180-day period. This means that businesspeople visiting multiple EU countries for a conference, presentation, business meeting or holiday can do so by filling out a single form once.

An ETIAS visa waiver will allow holders unlimited entries for 3 years or until the passport used to apply expires, whichever happens first.

Traveling to Europe on an ETIAS from 2021

Once the traveler arrives at a Schengen area border crossing point by air, sea or land, the border guard will electronically read the passport. This, in turn, will immediately trigger a query to the ETIAS, and its integrated databases.

The system will verify whether the passenger has an approved ETIAS. Visa-exempt citizens with a valid ETIAS visa waiver that fulfill all the entry requirements for Europe will then be granted entry into the Schengen Area.

Travelers who do not comply with the entry requirements and/or do not have an ETIAS will have their entry refusal recorded in the European Entry Exit System.

Travel is changing rapidly around the world. Make sure you are prepared for your next trip to Europe and ready to travel with the correct documentation for your destination.

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