As part of the Smart Borders Package introduced by the EU in 2016, the Entry-Exit System (EES) is an initiative which proposes to improve general security measures for the external Schengen Area borders.

In recent years the European Council and the European Parliament have been aiming to modernize the border control systems in place in the EU Schengen zone. The intention of the EU is to improve security and access to information with regards travelers to Europe. Another of the schemes that is being developed is the ETIAS EU visa which will be available for all third country nationals to request from 2021 before visiting Europe.

What is the EES?

The Entry-Exit System (EES) is a measure being implemented by the EU that will register the entry, exit and any refused entries of third country citizens crossing into Europe through the external Schengen borders.

The EES will support other border control systems in managing the influx of and recording data about travelers to and from the EU Schengen countries. It will apply to all those citizens from non-EU countries who visit for a short stay period. The short stay is defined as 90 days within any 180-day period.

Along with other European border schemes such as ETIAS and the Visa Information System (VIS) etc. the EES will improve and speed up border control processes as well as allow an enhanced detection of stolen identities and any nationals who overstay their permitted time.

All EU member states have access to the information gathered through the EES for identification purposes and to collect criminal identities and intelligence. The data is only provided to law authorities, Consular offices for visa services and Europol.

How does EES differ from ETIAS for Europe?

The EES is a programme that will record the entrance and exit of visitors to Europe which will be 100% digital and will replace the current passport stamping process, facilitating the border crossing for both border guards and non-EU nationals who will be able to access self-service kiosks similar to those available currently for EU citizens.

The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) visa for Europe is a travel authorization for non-EU citizens who wish to visit Europe. It is currently still in development stage and will be fully implemented in 2021. ETIAS is similar to the US ESTA and will allow Europe to maintain a more efficient control of who travels to the EU and requests entry. It is a visa waiver system for Europe which will permit eligible citizens the appropriate European travel.

Another of the differences between the EES and ETIAS for Europe is the information collected through each process. When applying for an ETIAS prior to visiting Europe, the traveler is required to complete an online ETIAS application form which requests contact details including passport information and asks some basic security questions. However, the EES records biometric data including the facial image and fingerprints, of each traveler upon arrival and exit from the EU.

Finally as a pre-travel requirement, ETIAS will allow the EU to screen travelers before arriving in Europe, against various security databases including the ETIAS Watchlist, Europol and Interpol, thus diminishing the rising terrorist threat to the EU as well as other health and security risks. Whereas the EES will simply record information once the third country national is entering or exiting the European zone.