The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs has requested a study to ensure that the ETIAS regards travelers’ fundamental rights, and ensures adequate data protection.

The study has been carried out by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizen’s Rights and Constitutional Affairs to assess certain key issues.

ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System. It is being implemented by the European Union to improve security within the Schengen borders as well as further the fight against terrorism.

The ETIAS does not collect biometric data. In fact, since it does not reintroduce visa-like obligations, ETIAS collects much less data than a traditional consular visa for the European Union would.

The European Union is developing the ETIAS following all the protocols necessary to ensure that it respects human rights and complies with data protection laws.

The ETIAS proposal, approved in 2016, and scheduled to launch in late 2022, comprises a system that will grant foreign nationals electronic travel authorizations.

This visa waiver will be granted to eligible travelers wishing to enter the EU Schengen Zone for any of the following purposes:

  • Business
  • Tourism
  • Leisure
  • Health and medical
  • Transit

Could ETIAS Infringe on Human Rights?

The simple answer is no.

European Union authorities are taking all the necessary measures to guarantee that:

  • Personal data remains private
  • ETIAS does not incur in discrimination
  • The system meets all the requirements detailed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights

The European travel authorization system is being set in place to help the EU identify:

  • Illegal immigrants
  • Suspected terrorists
  • Members of organized crime groups

In order to do so, travelers from over 60 countries who are currently exempt from visas when visiting the EU will have to register online for an ETIAS from late 2022 onwards.

As part of the new Smart Borders package, the ETIAS will become a mandatory travel document for these citizens.

In order to obtain an ETIAS, eligible travelers will have to introduce their basic data such as their name, date and place of birth, passport information and general travel plans in a simple online application form.

The ETIAS form will also require applicants to answer a few simple security and health-related questions in order to assess whether the applicant poses a risk for the EU.

The system will then cross-check the applicants’ data against multiple security databases and issue an authorization within minutes, in most cases, if their data produces no hits in the system.

These answers will dictate the eligibility of each European visa waiver applicant to enter the EU with an ETIAS.

What Does the Law Say About ETIAS?

Due to the sensitive nature of this information, and in order not to incur in discrimination nor to breach the privacy of personal data, the EU is making sure that all the necessary precautions are duly taken.

This online registration prior to traveling is perhaps a small hassle —although it takes no more than 10 minutes to complete— that will enable all travelers to Europe to enjoy:

  • Faster border checks that replace the stamping of passports with an electronic system
  • Safer travel than ever before, knowing the EU is doing everything in its power to prevent dangerous individuals from legally entering the Schengen Area
  • Protection against identity fraud by identifying applicants who submit false, stolen, lost or fraudulent documentation

Agustín Díaz de Mera, Spanish MEP who prepared the text for the civil liberties committee described ETIAS as “an indispensable tool for the security of European citizens”.

Mera also declared that “The system will help identify terrorists and record their travel histories within the Schengen area. Thanks to the new checks, we will better combat the irregular migration of people exceeding a legal period of stay,”.

Although ETIAS may be new to the EU, multiple countries have similar systems already implemented. Many travel authorization applications such as the US ESTA or Canadian eTA require travelers to supply information that relates to their previous immigration history with the aim of determining the risk of approving a travel visa for that individual.

The EU ETIAS will be no exception and will request that applicants provide personal data that will subsequently be stored and could, whenever necessary or required by law, be accessed by EU or national authorities.

The Role of ETIAS in European Interoperability

The ETIAS visa waiver program is being designed to seamlessly integrate with other European systems developed previously, alongside it, or in the future.

The ETIAS is just one of various schemes that the EU is planning to implement in the coming years in order to improve security, border control and regulate immigration.

Some of the systems that will work together with the ETIAS include:

This signifies that ETIAS would play a key role in EU interoperability with other information and security systems as well as allowing the relevant EU authorities and international agencies access to the information stored.