The days of unrestricted privileges for leisure travel across much of Europe are numbered.
Currently, travelers from dozens of countries, including the United States, can enter with just their passport and move freely through most of the European Union for stays under 90 days. But a new entry requirement called the European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS, is set to go into effect next year. Applications, which will be accepted online, will cost a small fee.
Here’s what to know about the program, which was first proposed in 2016 and has been repeatedly delayed.
What is ETIAS?
First, ETIAS is not a visa, and it doesn’t guarantee entry. It’s a travel authorization to enter 30 European countries, including the 27-country Schengen Area, as well as Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus.
The authorization is valid for three years or until the expiration of the traveler’s passport, whichever comes sooner. It grants a traveler entry to participating countries for up to 90 days in a 180-day period.
Who will need to apply?
An estimated 1.4 billion people who can currently travel visa-free throughout much of Europe will need to apply. ETIAS will be required for travelers of all ages.
Besides the United States, the countries affected include Australia, South Korea and Singapore.
People from many other countries, including China, Turkey and India, are already subject to a lengthy Schengen visa application process that generally involves an in-person biometrics appointment and proof of purchase for flights and accommodations.
Nationals of European countries implementing ETIAS are exempt.
How can you apply?
Applications will be submitted to the ETIAS website or app. It will cost 7 euros, or roughly $8, for travelers between the ages of 18 and 70. Others are not required to pay the fee.
Applicants will need to provide passport information, personal details such as a phone number, an email address, a home address and their occupation, any past criminal convictions, and intent for travel.
In most cases, applications will be processed within a few minutes. The ETIAS website encourages applicants to apply “well in advance” before purchasing a ticket or booking an accommodation.
Why is this new requirement being introduced?
The European Commission, the policymaking institution for the European Union, says that ETIAS is “for the identification of security, irregular migration or high epidemic risks posed by visa-exempt visitors.” Applicants will be screened against E.U. information systems for border and security, the agency said.
Xiao Wang, co-founder and chief executive of Boundless, a visa- and immigration-assistance company, said that ETIAS was similar to the United States’ Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA. This program, established in 2008, requires citizens of 40 countries to apply online for authorization before entering the United States for travel under 90 days — and costs $21. Nationals from dozens of European countries comply with this rule.
The E.U.’s version “brings up the parity of this level of information gathering,” Mr. Wang said.
What if your application processing is delayed or denied?
Applications can be delayed up to 30 days if additional information or documentation is needed. Applications can also be denied for numerous reasons, such as if a person has used a fraudulent or invalid passport, or if an applicant is determined to be a security threat.
People who are denied authorization can appeal.
When does it go into effect?
The program will begin at some point next year, according to the ETIAS website, which does not list any further information about timing. However, the entry requirement was first proposed in 2016, adopted in 2018 and has been delayed ever since.
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