A year away from now, travelers from over 60 world countries, who currently can travel to the Schengen Area without a visa, will need to apply for a travel authorization in order to be able to enter any of the Member States.
The launch of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), which has been postponed several times now, is unlikely to be postponed another time.
This means that travelers should prepare to apply for an ETIAS authorization starting from mid-2024.
While the EU has undertaken a few steps to inform citizens of third countries who will need an ETIAS in the future and several more are planned for the following months, regarding the system, application procedures, fees, and more, travelers still remain confused about how ETIAS is going to affect them, and what’s its purpose.
Incorrect media reporting and interpretations of the ETIAS, often done purposely, have caused confusion amongst travelers who, for a few years now, have tried to keep informed about the system and the date it would become effective.
Based on the most frequent questions regarding ETIAS that we have received in the past by our readers, we have clarified below the top nine things one needs to know before the system launches in 2024.
1. ETIAS Is Not a Visa
While the EU was still working on the EU regulations, many media and suspicious websites had claimed that ETIAS is a new type of visa, making travellers from over 60 world countries believe that they would soon need a visa in order to travel to the Schengen Zone, causing not only panic, but also anger amongst many.
In fact, ETIAS is not a visa. ETIAS is a visa waiver pre-screening program for all travelers under the EU visa-free program, including here Britons, Americans, Kiwis, Albanians, Bosnians, etc.
In March 2019, the EU delegation to the United States responded to a tweet of a well-known American medium claiming that Americans will soon need a visa to travel to Europe, denying that the ETIAS is a visa, and rather pointing out that it is the equivalent of the US ESTA.
The latter is also a pre-screening program of travelers from over 40 countries that can enter the US under its Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
“Neither the ESTA nor the future ETIAS (EU equivalent) are visas. They carry out pre-travel screening for travelers benefiting from visa-free access,” the delegation had said in its tweet.
Similarly, over the past few years, EU officials have often refuted claims that the ETIAS is a visa.
There are many differences between an ETIAS and a Schengen Visa, and amongst the most important ones is that in order to obtain a Schengen visa you need to make an appointment, collect a long list of documents, attend an interview, and pay quite a high fee.
In contrary, the application for a travel authorization takes only about ten minutes, and there’s no need to attend an interview or make an appointment, or even collect the documents required for a visa. In addition, the fee for it is very cheap compared to Schengen visa fees.
2. ETIAS Website Is Up Under the “europa.eu” Domain
There are currently tons of websites pretending to be the official ETIAS website, or others that don’t directly claim that, but appear as an official EU site. In addition, there are others that claim to be intermediaries for obtaining an ETIAS, which is an absolutely unnecessary service.
The domain had been confirmed to SchengenVisaInfo.com in October 2020, by an EU press officer.
“This website will be part of the “europa.eu” domain name and will use the EU visual identity, making it easy for Internet users to identify it as an official EU website. We are also working on a search engine optimization strategy to make sure the ETIAS website is easy to find in online searches,” the press officer had said at the time.
The same had also confirmed that the EU is aware of the existence of the numerous fake websites attempting to look like the official ETIAS website.
“We are aware of the proliferation of websites that offer information and/or services related to ETIAS,” a press officer of the eu-LISA had also told SchengenVisaInfo.com in an exchange of emails.
The eu-LISA the agency responsible for providing all the necessary technical solutions and functionalities for a website that can handle all the requirements that exist for the ETIAS web services.
3. Schengen Visa Applicants Will Not Be Affected by ETIAS
Travelers from over 100 world countries who currently need a Schengen visa in order to travel to any of the 27 Schengen Area countries for short-term periods and purposes like tourism, business, visiting family members, etc., will not need an ETIAS.
Yet, in case a country get visa liberalization after the ETIAS becomes effective, that’s when applicants from that country will start needing the ETIAS, instead of Schengen visas.
This will be the case for Kosovo, to which the Council of the EU has promised visa-free entry after the ETIAS becomes effective.
4. ETIAS Is Not a “Brexit Revenge” But Rather a Security Measure
Many British tabloids had tried to color the creation of the ETIAS as a revenge action of the EU for Brexit, but this is very untrue.
Though the proposal for the creation of the ETIAS and the Brexit referendum in the UK for leaving the EU both took place in 2016, they are not related.
In fact, the idea to create the system is an attempt of the EU to secure its borders, after the wave of migrants that reached the EU borders in the years before, and a number of terrorist attacks that took place all over the block, and resulted with tens of Europeans losing their lives.
“We need to know who is crossing our borders. This way we will know who is traveling to Europe before they even get here,” the then-EU Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker had said presenting the proposal.
It is also expected that the scheme will assist the EU countries to reduce entry procedures at the external borders and reinforce the visa liberalization policy.
5. Many Other Countries Have Similar Schemes, Including the US, Australia, & Canada
The EU is not the first, nor the last to introduce such a scheme. Other countries have operated similar systems, for almost identical purposes, for years now, and even decades.
The United States have operated the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) since 2007, which is also an online scheme for applications for travelers from countries under the US’ Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The fee for an ESTA application is US $4, and if approved, an additional fee of US $17 is charged, for a total of US $21. Which makes it three times more expensive than an ETIAS.
Australia, on the other hand, operates a scheme called Electronic Travel Authority (eTA), since March 23, 2013, which costs AU$20.
The United Kingdom is also working on a similar system, which for now is being called Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA), and will serve for the same purpose as the ETIAS. This means that once the UK ETA becomes effective, travelers from the EU will need to obtain one to enter the territory of the UK.
6. Application Procedures Are Supposed to Take About 10 Minutes
As emphasized above, applying for an ETIAS, is so much easier than for a visa. Travelers will need to fill in some information, upload a scan of their passport, their photo, and be done.
The whole application procedures are expected to take about ten minutes.
7. It Costs Only €7
In spite of what some tabloids have tried to portray, the ETIAS is actually quite cheap. “Brits will have to pay to enter the EU”, and “Travel to EU to become more expensive” have been some of the most common claims in the recent years, both of which are true to an extent, but not as extreme as they sound.
An ETIAS will cost only €7, which is at least one time cheaper than all other travel authorizations of systems operated by other countries. Moreover, travelers won’t have to obtain a new ETIAS every time they travel, as they can use the same one over and over again, as long as it is valid.
8. You Can Travel to Schengen Area With the Same ETIAS, As Long As It Is Valid
As said above, in spite of the attempts to make it look as if travelers will need a new ETIAS every time they travel to the Schengen Area countries, that is absolutely untrue.
An ETIAS will be valid for two years at first. If the traveller’s passport expires within two years after application for an ETIAS, then the validity of the first-obtained ETIAS will be until the expiration of their passport.
Travelers who apply with passports that are valid more than two years, will obtain an ETIAS valid for two years.
Those who after their first ETIAS expires, apply for a second ETIAS, will receive it with a validity of up to five years, and then ten and so on.
9. Operation of ETIAS Is Linked to the Entry/Exit System
The operation of the ETIAS is deeply linked to the launch of the Entry/Exit System (EES). The latter is another lately developed system by the EU, in a bid to enhance security in the Schengen Zone.
The EES is a large-scale IT system which amongst others will replace visa stamping. It will be implemented as a part of the Smart Borders Package introduced by the EU in 2016, part of which is also the ETIAS.
It will also play an important role for Schengen visa applications, as once it becomes fully operational, authorities responsible for issuing Schengen visas shall consult the EES when processing visa applications, as well as before decisions to annul, revoke or extend the period of validity of an issued visa.