The European Commission has confirmed that the date of the introduction of the mandatory ETIAS waiver for visa-exempt citizens to Europe has been delayed, in order to allow travelers and border control checks to adapt to the new system.
ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorisation System. The European Parliament approved this visa waiver program in 2016 in order to pre-screen travelers from around 60 countries who are visa-exempt for the Schengen Area, with the aim of improving European border security.
Once the system is fully operational, all citizens from visa-exempt countries will be required to pre-register for an ETIAS visa waiver in order to travel to any of the Schengen Area countries (which are made up of 22 EU member states and 4 non-EU members who share a common visa policy).
After ETIAS becomes mandatory, citizens from all Schengen visa-exempt countries will need to submit an online application for the visa waiver, similar to that of the US ESTA, before planning to travel to several European destinations.
It was originally expected that ETIAS would take around 5 years to become operational, by the end of 2021, and be fully implemented by 2022. But, now, official European Commission sources have confirmed that mandatory registration for travel authorization will be delayed until a later date.
When Will ETIAS Become Obligatory to Travel to Europe?
An official source from the EU commission recently confirmed that it is likely that the ETIAS system will now not be implemented until the end of 2022, and mandatory registration for the visa waiver will not come into effect until at least 6 months afterward.
Therefore, applying for ETIAS could be optional during the first 6 months of 2023 and it will not be an obligatory requirement for travelers to hold an approved travel authorization if visiting the Schengen Area during this time.
However, the spokesperson also added that during this period Schengen zone member countries will be obliged to inform visa-exempt travelers crossing internal borders that the ETIAS authorization will soon become mandatory. Such travelers will receive a leaflet with this information when presenting to Schengen border checkpoints.
The leaflet will also be distributed to the embassies and consulates of all Schengen Area countries in the territories to which the mandatory ETIAS registration will apply.
The Extra ETIAS Grace Period
At the end of the first 6 months of ETIAS implementation, an extra grace period of 6 months could come into effect. During this time, authorities would allow visa-exempt travelers without an ETIAS to cross Schengen external borders, on condition that they fulfill the obligatory requirement on the other side and are crossing the border for the first time since the end of the first grace period.
The EU source also added that this second grace period could potentially also be extended for an additional 6 months to allow travelers and border guards alike to adjust to the new requirements.