ETIAS will be available to citizens of the Schengen Area, as well as Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Croatia. Applicants must be citizens of a country that has a visa-free travel agreement with Schengen.
In 2024, things will change dramatically for tourists visiting Europe. From that day (although it will not be fully implemented until the end of 2023) it will be mandatory to use the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) to enter the Schengen area. However, ETIAS applications will only be accepted from countries participating in the visa waiver program of current or future Schengen member states.
European Union Travel Authorization Information System (ETIAS)
Similar to the U.S. ESTA and the systems used by Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is a new electronic way of approving travel to Schengen countries. Its main objective is to force online visa applications for citizens of countries that have visa-free access to Schengen.
It will be a fairly quick procedure. The European Commission claims that 95% of ETIAS applications will be processed within minutes. Everyone between the ages of 18 and 70 will have to pay 7 euros for a visa-free pass valid for three years. For more information on the requirements, see ETIAS: Requirements, price, obligations and what to do to apply.
If you need to visit Spain or the rest of Europe for business, pleasure or medical reasons, ETIAS is your best option to meet the entry requirements. Only citizens of countries participating in the visa waiver program and visitors from states participating in the Schengen Agreement will be allowed entry.
The Schengen nations have taken a giant step forward in their border policies with the implementation of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).
When West Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands joined the Schengen Agreement in 1985, they did so with the intention of eventually eliminating internal borders within the European Union. They succeeded among themselves, rather than trying to do so at the European Union level.
The size of the Schengen area has grown over time. Italy was the first in 1990. Then Spain and Portugal joined in 1991. In 1992, the Greeks were next. There are now 26 member countries of the Schengen Agreement, and four more are obliged to join (Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Croatia) when they meet the criteria.
All European Union (EU) countries except Ireland (including Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Croatia, although they are not yet part of Schengen) and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City will be able to apply for ETIAS in 2024.
Countries with access to ETIAS
The member countries of the Schengen Area decided in 2001 to draw up a list of countries whose citizens did not need a visa to enter the Schengen countries.
Over time, more governments have joined this club, while some have left, such as Vanuatu. Today, a total of 62 nations belong to this group. These 62 countries are the ones that will have access to the ETIAS as soon as it enters into force.
The reasons that have led these states to enjoy a visa waiver agreement with the Schengen area are varied. Among them are reasons such as geopolitical importance or good relations with European countries -the case of the USA, Canada or Japan-, geographical and political proximity to the Old Continent -Great Britain-, or cultural ties with one of the Schengen member countries.
In the latter scenario, for example, 15 Ibero-American nations now have access to the visa waiver program and, by extension, to ETIAS, thanks in large part to the efforts of Spain and Portugal. These 15 nations include:
Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, Venezuela and Uruguay.
Currently, ETIAS is not available to citizens of countries that are not part of the Schengen visa waiver program, who will instead have to apply for one of the many other types of visas available.
The full list of countries where ETIAS will apply in 2023 can be found here.