Several new proposals were submitted to the EU in 2016 , agreed upon by the European Council and European Parliament, including the Entry-Exit System (EES) and the ETIAS visa waiver system. Since then, the EU Commission has found itself in a transitory position where changes to the EU Visa Policy need to be made in order to maintain a strong, efficient and secure Europe.

Amendments to EU Common Visa Policy

The European common visa policy is being updated in several ways due to the pressure of increased security and health threats to the bloc. The general aim of all new proposals, including the Europe ETIAS visa, is to heighten security levels, control irregular migration and facilitate travel for legitimate tourists and trade.

The amendments to the EU Common Visa Policy were announced by the EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos. Avramopoulos stated that the proposed reforms will improve cooperation with non-EU countries and allow tourists who follow the proper procedures for European visa application and regulations, to be considered for certain benefits.

10% of the GDP of the EU comes from the travel and tourism sector. Therefore, therefore it is high on the list of priorities for member states to ensure a controlled, stable and secure visa system. The changes are being implemented to improve the positive impact of having a straightforward travel visa system in place in Europe.

  • The EU has stated that by reducing decision time for visa applications from 15 to 10 days, it will facilitate the visa issuing process.
  • Another of the changes to be made will allow travelers to apply up to 6 months prior to their visit instead of the current 3 months which will thus permit more tourists to easily obtain their Schengen visa.
  • Applications for a Europe visa will now be available online, and will include an electronic signature which will facilitate and speed up the application process. When the the European travel authorization comes into effect in 2022, tourists from ETIAS eligible countries will also be able to complete a short and quick application online in order to obtain a European visa waiver electronically.

What Is the Impact of ETIAS on the Common Visa Policy?

As part of an EU initiative to improve tourism and trade throughout the territory, Europe developed a way to facilitate travel and commerce between countries, which included a common visa policy. However, to improve security measures, Europe has recently decided to develop a new program to offer a travel authorization to Europe for travelers from outside the EU, ETIAS.

To understand completely what impact ETIAS will have on the common visa policy, it is important to first understand what is meant by both these terms:

  • ETIAS is the EU’s version of the Australian ETA and the US ESTA visa waiver. It stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System. This travel authorization to Europe is being implemented to increase security on border controls and immigration for the Schengen Area.
  • The common visa policy refers to the visa strategy employed in the border-free Schengen zone in Europe, which promotes visa liberalization as a tool to build relations within the EU and with third-party countries in order to improve tourism and business.

Within the common visa policy there is a list which defines the countries whose citizens can travel to and around the EU with a Schengen visa. A second list details those who can currently travel without a visa for Europe but who will be required to apply for an ETIAS for Europe via an online platform once it is implemented.

What ETIAS means for the EU Common Visa Policy

ETIAS will require citizens of those countries who currently travel to Europe visa-free to register online before leaving their country of residence and receive an approved travel authorization.

ETIAS is a travel authorization system for eligible citizens to register online, not a typical travel visa which requires applicants to go to a Consulate or Embassy. The visa waiver system is being introduced as an extra security measure and will not affect eligible ETIAS countries nor their citizens’ right to travel to the single market region.

After several terrorist and worldwide health threats, the main aim of the EU in implementing the ETIAS travel authorization is to increase security in border controls and immigration. This will benefit not only citizens of the EU but also the visa-free travelers who visit Europe.

The difference between citizens who require an ETIAS and a Schengen visa will remain the same, with eligible ETIAS countries being granted more freedom and access to the EU zone than those countries who require visa travel to Europe.

How will ETIAS affect your travels to Europe?

As more and more countries move from one list to the other and citizens of these countries are awarded visa-free travel to Europe, it is essential that European authorities are able to deal with the rising number of visa-free travelers and any potential security or health threats that could arise as a result.

The online application for travel authorization to Europe will require the applicant to enter biometric passport information and travel details, as well as to answer some basic security questions. The process of applying for an ETIAS will be quick and easy for all eligible travelers.

There will be no need to visit a consulate or embassy to obtain an ETIAS travel authorization nor will there be the need for unnecessary bureaucracy upon arrival. Eligible citizens will already have been screened when registering for an ETIAS for Europe online.

It is expected that applicants will quickly receive an approval notice for their ETIAS, which will be sent digitally to their individual email address.

The future of the European Visa System

Other amendments to the current European Common Visa Policy include an increase in the EU visa fee, in order to collect funds to support an increase in the security force, as well as strictly regulated 7-day visa issuance at external European land and sea borders to facilitate short term tourist stays. Regular travelers who are trusted by the authorities according to their migration, security and health history, may also be offered longer-stay visas from 1 to 3 years.

Several of these improvements will be applicable to all those eligible for the ETIAS visa once it is implemented.

Changes to the Visa Information System (VIS) will also make way for the implementation of the ETIAS program in 2022. The reforms are expected to allow easier and quicker access to databases containing visa applicant information. This will allow member states to more efficiently determine the applicant’s eligibility for an ETIAS travel authorization.