The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is the new visa waiver programme currently being developed by the EU. ETIAS will be implemented at the end of 2022 and become a mandatory entry requirement for visa-exempt non-EU citizens shortly after.

Whilst it is expected that most applications will be approved within minutes of applying, ETIAS visa waiver refusal is possible.

If the ETIAS application is rejected, the third-country national will not be able to cross an external Schengen Area border legally. Only non-EU citizens with a valid ETIAS visa waiver linked to their passport will be able to travel to the 26 Schengen countries visa-free.

This article explains the main reasons why visitors may be denied ETIAS including criminal background and health and security concerns.

The ETIAS screening process

ETIAS is being introduced to improve border security and protect public health and safety. Like ESTA for the US, ETIAS provides a means of prescreening visa-exempt citizens before they cross the border.

To apply, travellers from eligible countries complete a short form, providing basic personal details and passport data. There are also a few additional health and security questions that must be answered before submitting the application for review.

Once the form has been submitted, the information provided is automatically cross-checked against several international databases, including the ETIAS Watchlist and Interpol. In the unlikely event that there is a hit in the system, the application will be analysed manually by the ETIAS Central and National Units before a decision is reached.

In the case of ETIAS visa waiver refusal, applicants have the right to appeal the decision.

Reasons for ETIAS Visa Waiver refusal

It is expected that the vast majority of ETIAS applicants will be granted access to Europe almost immediately after applying. Nevertheless, in order to keep Europe safe for residents and visitors, it is necessary to prevent some individuals from crossing the border.

The main reasons why a traveller may be refused ETIAS are as follows:

Incomplete or inaccurate information provided when applying

Although the ETIAS application will be straightforward to fill in, it is important that all the information provided is accurate.

Special care should be taken when introducing details such as the passport number, any mistakes may lead to delays or even rejection.

In addition, all questions must be answered truthfully and completely in order to be granted a visa waiver for Europe.

ETIAS criminal background and other security concerns

When applying for ETIAS, criminal records will be taken into account. However, the visa waiver can be obtained despite having committed an offense in the past and people with a criminal background should not be deterred from applying.

Only individuals considered to be a current threat will be denied entry to Europe. This is based on information held in international security databases and will be flagged during the screening process. ETIAS is concerned with serious cross-border crime, in particular, terrorism: going to Europe with a criminal record is possible in many other cases.

Minor offenses committed in the past are unlikely to result in ETIAS visa waiver refusal. Manual processing takes place on an individual basis. The ETIAS National Unit will review the details of each application closely and decide whether ETIAS with a criminal record is appropriate.

Health concerns and ETIAS visa waiver applications

As well as boosting security, ETIAS will also prevent serious health issues. Health-related questions on the ETIAS application form will help European authorities identify individuals who may pose a risk to public health.

Travellers carrying certain infectious diseases may be refused an ETIAS visa waiver with the aim of preventing epidemics and protecting global health.

Overstaying a previous trip in Europe can block access

When going abroad, it is essential to abide by the visa or visa waiver policy of that country.

This is also true for Europe. Citizens of visa-exempt nations can spend up to 90 days in Europe, overstaying this allowance may cause issues and future entry restrictions.

The Entry/Exit System (EES) will register third-country nationals entering and departing the Schengen Area, overstayers may face repercussions including ETIAS visa waiver rejection or revokement.

How to avoid ETIAS Visa Waiver refusal

To further reduce the likelihood of an ETIAS application being rejected, travellers are advised to:

  • Double-check the information provided, especially spelling and numbers
  • Provide the name as it appears on the passport
  • Answer ETIAS criminal record questions truthfully
  • Complete all the relevant health information requested
  • Avoid leaving any blanks, ensure the form is fully complete
  • Don’t overstay the maximum permitted stay on any trip to Europe

Visitors whose application is approved should be aware, although the visa waiver is multiple-entry and valid for 3 years, ETIAS can be revoked or annulled. If the ETIAS requirements are no longer met access to Europe can be blocked in order to keep European destinations safe for everyone.