The EU commission created the new European Travel and Authorization System (ETIAS) permit as a way to assess visa-free travelers before they arrive at the Schengen Area. Applicants will have to complete an online form that will then be processed through the ETIAS security database and will evaluate if they pose any risks concerning security. The ETIAS travel authorization is Europe’s response to the increasing number of tourists, migration flows and terrorist threats in recent years.

Currently, nationals of more than 60 countries and territories can travel visa-free to the EU. The Commission expects a significant increase in travelers crossing the Schengen borders in the coming years, from 30 million in 2014 to 39 million in 2021.

How the ETIAS visa waiver works

All third-country nationals who previously had no visa requirements when entering Europe will now need to apply for an ETIAS travel authorization before coming to the EU.

The ETIAS is an electronic authorization that uses an advanced IT system to assess potential security and health risks. Each application is checked against various EU security databases, including the Schengen Information System, the Entry/Exit System as well as Europol and Interpol databases, before being approved. This allows EU security to verify, among other issues, if the travel document has been reported lost or stolen and if the person is wanted for arrest.

In some cases, applicants may be required to provide additional information, and in exceptional circumstances be invited for an interview. If the ETIAS travel authorization is denied, applicants will be informed of the reasons as well as how to solve the authorization issue, including judicial recourse. In any case, border guards will continue to have the final say on entry.

To correctly apply for an ETIAS travel authorization, non-EU nationals are required to fill out an electronic form with their personal information, like name, date, and place of birth, sex, and nationality. They must also provide their travel documents information (valid for at least six months), like validity, country of issue, home address and contact information. They will also be required to answer a few security questions and name the European country of first intended entry.

The ETIAS will be valid for three years (or until the travel document expires). According to ETIAS legislation, persons under 18 and over 60 years of age, family members of EU citizens and students and researchers traveling for academic purposes will be exempt from paying the processing fee. All travellers holding an approved ETIAS authorization will be able to move freely within the 26 countries that form the Schengen Area.

Criminal records and conflict zones

The ETIAS travel authorization will help close existing security information gaps by collecting biometric data on all visitors. Its intricate database system will collect valuable biometric information on all travelers and provide it to the authorities of all Member States. Etias will strengthen both Europe’s external border policies and ensure internal security while preserving freedom of movement within the Schengen area.

All applicants are required to inform authorities of any prior convictions for serious criminal offenses such as terrorism, sexual exploitation of children, trafficking in human beings or drugs, murder and rape. This is especially true when traveling to specific conflict zones. They will also need to inform of any prior administrative decisions requiring them to leave a country, in the last ten years.