The ETIAS visa for Europe is a new program that the European Union have approved and plan to launch in order to improve security at the external entrance borders to the Schengen zone of Europe.
The European Commission and European Parliament came to an agreement to introduce the European Travel Information and Authorisation System, the ETIAS Europe visa as a security measure after the success of several similar tourist visa or visa waiver schemes around the world like the Canadian eTA, Australian eTA and US ESTA visa waiver.
When will ETIAS be necessary?
At the moment there is no official day that ETIAS will come into effect as it is still being developed by the EU and the various ETIAS entities that have been created for this purpose. However the aim of the EU is to implement the ETIAS Europe visa beginning in 2021 for all eligible citizens from current visa-waiver countries.
At this moment in time any traveler to the ETIAS countries from eligible visa waiver countries simply must provide their passport upon arrival at any European entry port. There is no previous screening process nor extra security measures which prevent potential threats arriving in Europe.
Those who do not belong to a Europe visa waiver country are required to apply for a Schengen visa which is a separate physical visa which obliges applicants to visit an embassy or consulate and complete the application process in person.
When ETIAS for Europe is up and running, each traveler to Europe will need to either apply as usual for a Schengen visa or if they are eligible, they will be able to complete the quick and easy online ETIAS application to ensure they are registered and permitted to travel to Europe.
Once they have been granted an ETIAS visa waiver which will be sent to their personal email as indicated by the applicant, the ETIAS is valid for a total of 3 consecutive years and will not need to be renewed until the ETIAS itself or the passport connected to the visa expires.
What do you need to be eligible to apply for ETIAS?
The requirements for applying for ETIAS are quite simple and straightforward. The first of the ETIAS requirements is that the applicant be a passport holder of an eligible ETIAS country which currently corresponds to the 60+ countries whose citizens can travel to the European Schengen zone without a visa.
The valid travel document needed to apply for an ETIAS to travel to Europe must be a machine readable electronic passport from one of the ETIAS eligible countries. At the moment no biometric data will be required on the ETIAS application form nor will the applicant be required to supply his or her fingerprints.
The applicant will also have to provide their personal information such as name, date and place of birth, current residence etc. and enter their contact details. Another ETIAS requirement is that the traveler supplies the correct data from their passport including country and date of issue, passport number and expiry date.
Finally, each ETIAS-eligible applicant must answer certain security questions regarding drug use, criminal background, employment history, previous European travel information and general security details.
These details are then screened against various security databases used by the ETIAS organization to ensure all those who are granted an ETIAS visa waiver do not represent any type of security, health or immigration threat to Europe or its citizens.
In the case an applicant is unable or refuses to provide any of this information, the ETIAS will be denied and the person applying will not be allowed to enter Europe through any air, land or sea port.
Who needs ETIAS?
So now you have a clear understanding of the ETIAS requirements for eligible citizens but who needs to apply for ETIAS?
Any citizen wishing to travel to Europe from the 60+ visa waiver countries is eligible to apply for an ETIAS to allow them entry into Europe as many times as necessary within the 5 years validity of the European visa for a total of 90 days in a 180-day period.
At the moment it is unclear how the ETIAS system will affect UK citizens traveling to Europe but in the future post-Brexit ETIAS information should be readily available.