The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is a visa waiver program for international travelers from European countries. It will come into effect at the end of 2023.
When looking for the requirements to travel to Spain -or any other country in Europe-, there is one word that pops up in any search: ETIAS. Those five letters, ETIAS, stand for European Travel Information and Authorization System. This is a new visa waiver program for travelers that, from the end of 2023, will be implemented by numerous European countries.
In this article we will try to explain what exactly this new electronic system for travel authorization to Europe is, which countries it will affect, when it will come into force and how to apply for it.
What is ETIAS?
The European Travel Information and Authorization System is a new electronic method for authorizing travel to Schengen countries, an evolution of migration policy and border security in Europe. With its implementation, citizens of many countries will have to complete a short online procedure to be allowed to travel to Schengen, whether for business, leisure, health or any other reason.
Until now, many states have been able to allow their citizens to enter Europe without a visa or any other formality - Venezuela, Brazil, or the U.S., for example - but from the date that ETIAS becomes mandatory, these same individuals will have to apply for a visa waiver through this system as one of the requirements for travel to Europe.
For their part, nationals of countries that previously required a visa will not see their status changed by the implementation of ETIAS. They will have to continue to apply for one of the various visas available from the date on which ETIAS becomes mandatory.
The ETIAS is the Schengen counterpart of other visa waiver programs, such as the ESTA in the United States, or the respective programs applied by Great Britain, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. The idea was first proposed to the European Commission in 2016, and became part of the European regulation in September 2018.
When will ETIAS enter into force?
Everything seems to indicate that the ETIAS would come into force at the end of 2023, but its launch has been extended by 6 months, until November 2023.
However, although its use will be recommended from that moment onwards, the governing bodies of the Schengen Area will give a period of six months for travelers and border managers to adapt to the new system. To this end, information posts will be set up at European borders to inform third-country nationals about the change in the requirements for traveling to Europe.
Although it is not mandatory to apply during the transitional period, the EU encourages travelers to register for ETIAS. Thereafter, ETIAS will be valid for three years, during which time you will be able to travel freely within the Schengen Area, provided your passport is valid.
Which countries are part of ETIAS?
The countries that will apply ETIAS to their border control processes can be divided into three different groups:
- The states that are part of the Schengen Agreement: i.e. 22 EU member states plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
- The four EU member states that are obliged to join Schengen in the future: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania and Croatia.
- The micro-states that are de facto members: Andorra, San Marino, Monaco and the Vatican City.
The complete list of countries to which ETIAS will apply in 2023 can be consulted here.
Which countries are affected by ETIAS?
ETIAS, this new electronic system for travel authorization, will be part of the requirements to travel to Spain -and to all the countries mentioned above- if you are a citizen of the group of countries that are part of the visa waiver program.
Whether or not a state is part of this group depends, to a large extent, on its stability or political and social power -the case of the USA, Canada, or Japan-, its geographical proximity to the EU -Great Britain-, or its cultural ties. For example, from the Spanish point of view, it is worth noting that there are 15 states in the Ibero-American world that will have access to ETIAS. Namely:
In any case, this group will not be closed, and membership will be reviewable. Vanuatu's membership was temporarily suspended in 2022 for migration reasons.
How do I apply for ETIAS?
This new electronic system for travel authorization can be requested from the last months of 2023, and the process to do so will be very simple. Everything will be carried out through an official website that European organizations will make available to anyone interested in traveling to the Schengen Area, without the need to visit any embassy or consulate.
The information that will need to be submitted on this website can be completed in a matter of minutes, and in most cases the response will be immediate. Only in specific events, in which the system has to check different databases, the response to the procedure may take up to a maximum of 30 days.
How much does it cost and what is the duration of the ETIAS?
This new requirement to travel to Europe will be priced at 7 euros for all those between 18 and 70 years of age. This fee will finance the entire ETIAS system.
The duration of the visa exemption permit will be three years, so that stays of a maximum of three months can be made during that period.
Can an ETIAS application be denied?
The answer is yes, but only in very exceptional cases. According to the European Commission's own data, 95% of the cases are expected to receive a positive response within minutes. Of the remaining 5%, it is estimated that 3-4% of the applications will be accepted after passing through the ETIAS Central Unit.
Thus, there will only be 1-2% of ETIAS applications that will have to be manually checked by the National Units, which will be responsible for issuing a response by e-mail.
Which authority will be in charge of ETIAS?
The European authorities involved in the management of ETIAS will be several:
- ETIAS Central Unit.
- ETIAS National Units.
- European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex).
- ETIAS Management Board.
- ETIAS Fundamental Rights Monitoring Board.
As in the case of the U.S. ESTA and other electronic travel authorization systems, the objective of ETIAS is twofold. On the one hand, to speed up the entry into the EU of citizens from many countries with a certain link to the Union. On the other hand, to increase surveillance and security at the borders of the Schengen area.
Facts and myths about ETIAS
- Travel to all 27 Schengen countries requires ETIAS: Travelers with a FREE visa must enter 30 European countries with a valid ETIAS travel authorisation. All 27 Schengen nations, as well as Bulgaria, Romania, and Cyprus, are included. See the most recent list of European nations that need ETIAS.
- ETIAS is a new visa for citizens of 60 countries that did not previously need a visa to travel to Europe: The ETIAS program is not a visa. For visa-exempt citizens, the United States, Canada, and Australia all need comparable travel authorizations. In contrast to applying for a visa, tourists will be able to apply for ETIAS online, without having to visit a consulate, and no biometric data will be gathered as part of the application process. An ETIAS travel license enables passengers to enter and remain on the territory of European nations that need ETIAS for a limited time (up to 90 days in a 180-day period). It does not provide applicants the right to study, work, or reside in the region indefinitely. Nationals of visa-exempt countries who want to remain in a European nation needing ETIAS for a longer amount of time to work, study, or reside will almost certainly require a long-stay visa. More details about who should apply for ETIAS.
- There are several websites where you may apply for ETIAS: The official ETIAS website (travel-europe.europa.eu/etia) is the only one. There are also several unauthorized websites that are operated by business middlemen. Commercial intermediaries will utilize the official ETIAS website to apply on behalf of their customers once ETIAS is established in 2024. The ETIAS Regulation allows you to apply on behalf of others, but be wary of fraudsters! Find out more about unauthorized ETIAS websites.
- ETIAS will be valid for a period of five years: An ETIAS travel authorisation is valid for three years or until the passport used to complete the application form expires, whichever comes first.
If an ETIAS application is refused, travelers may apply for a Schengen visa instead: If their ETIAS is refused, visa-exempt passengers cannot apply for a visa. A visa and an ETIAS are two sorts of permits that are meant for distinct types of visitors. If a visa-exempt traveler does not have a valid ETIAS travel permit, he or she will be denied entry into European countries that need ETIAS. Find out what to do if your application is turned down.
- ETIAS will only be available to persons between the ages of 18 and 70: ETIAS travel permission is required for all visa-exempt passengers, regardless of age. Applicants under the age of 18 or above the age of 70, on the other hand, are free from paying the EUR 7 application cost.
- Applicants must furnish the following medical information when applying for an ETIAS travel authorization: When applying for ETIAS, no medical information is necessary. When filling out the application form, passengers must include personal information such as their residence, passport data, current employment, and information about prior travel to war zones or criminal convictions. More details on the ETIAS application criteria.
The main point to be made about ETIAS is that the EU has taken an important step in the same direction as the USA, Great Britain and Australia. Namely: streamlining procedures for foreign nationals through an electronic system for travel authorization, all while increasing border security.
It remains to be seen what the results will be after the first months of implementation, but everything points to this being good news, and not only for European citizens. Nationals of the 15 Ibero-American countries that are part of the ETIAS group should also be in luck from the end of 2023. Their entry, although now requiring a small process, will be much more secure.
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