ETIAS (The European Travel Information and Authorization) will require visitors to the Schengen Area to obtain an ETIAS visa before they can enter. ETIAS for Europe will come into force in 2021. It was designed by the European Union (EU) to strengthen border control and security around the Schengen Area.

With the implementation of ETIAS approaching there is understandably a lot of confusion around what people will have to do to before visiting Europe. Part of this confusion results from a misunderstanding about which countries are in the Schengen area, which are the ETIAS countries, and which countries are in the EU.

In 2016 the UK voted to leave the EU. Brexit has left people with even more questions about how traveling to Europe will work in the future.

What’s the difference between the Schengen Area and the European Union?

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states.The EU has developed an internal tariff-free single market and ensures the free movement of all EU citizens between the 28 countries.

Though each member state has its own government there are shared laws which cover a range of areas including trade, agriculture, and regional development.

The original six members (Belgium, France, Italy, and Luxembourg) joined together in the 1950s with the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1951) and the Treaty of Rome (1957). They came to be known as ‘the European Community’.

The community expanded over the subsequent decades to include the other 22 members and it came to be called the European Union.

What is the Schengen Area?

The Schengen Area is an zone made up of 26 European states which have officially abolished passport and other types of border control at their mutual borders. For visitors to the EU it effectively means that the Schengen Area acts as a singular country, i.e. once you enter one Schengen country you have entered them all.

Are the EU countries and the Schengen countries the same?

No, there are non-EU countries which are in the Schengen Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican City).

There are also countries which are a part of the EU, which have opted out of the Schengen Agreement, these being the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

How does this affect ETIAS?

The ETIAS visa grants access to all countries included in the Schengen agreement, i.e. the ETIAS countries and the Schengen countries are the same, an ETIAS visa is effectively a Schengen visa.

How will Brexit affect ETIAS?

The UK has never been a part of the Schengen Area. Currently non-EU visitors need to check the UK’s visa requirements before traveling there. This will most most likely be the case after Brexit.

So although the UK’s future relationship with the EU is unclear, for non-Europeans wishing to travel to either the Schengen Area, or the UK, it is unlikely to make a difference.

However, this is not the case for British and European citizens. It has not yet been decided whether British citizens will need to apply for an ETIAS visa when visiting Europe. Similarly, it has not been decided if citizens of EU member states will need to apply for a visa to enter the UK.

Negotiations are ongoing and the UK is set to leave the EU on 29th March 2019.