As part of an EU initiative to improve tourism and trade throughout the territory, Europe developed a way to facilitate travel and commerce between countries which included a common visa policy. However, to improve security measures, Europe has recently decided to develop a new program to offer a travel authorization to Europe for travelers from outside the EU, given the name ETIAS.

To understand completely what impact ETIAS will have on the common visa policy, it is important to first understand what is meant by both these terms:

  • ETIAS is the EU’s version of the Australian ETA and the US ESTA visa waiver. It stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System. This travel authorization to Europe (ETIAS) is being implemented to increase security on border controls and immigration for the Schengen Area.

  • The common visa policy refers to the visa strategy employed in the border-free Schengen zone in Europe which promotes visa liberalization as a tool to build relations within the EU and with third-party countries in order to improve tourism and business.

Within the common visa policy there is a list which defines the countries whose citizens can travel to and around the EU with a Schengen visa and a second list for those who can do so without a visa for Europe and who will remain exempt from needing a visa but will be required to apply for an ETIAS for Europe via an online platform.

What ETIAS means for the EU common visa policy

ETIAS will require citizens of those countries who currently travel to Europe visa-free to register online before leaving their country of residence and apply for a travel authorization.

As ETIAS is a travel authorization system for eligible citizens to register online, and not a typical travel visa which requires applicants to go to a Consulate or Embassy, those who currently travel visa-free will maintain this status as ETIAS EU travelers. The visa waiver system is being introduced as an extra security measure and will not affect eligible ETIAS countries nor their citizens’ right to travel to the single market region.

After several terrorist and worldwide health threats, the main aim of the EU in implementing the ETIAS travel authorization is to increase security in border controls and immigration which will benefit not only citizens of the EU but also the visa-free travelers who visit Europe.

The difference between citizens who require an ETIAS and a Schengen visa will remain as it is currently, with eligible ETIAS countries being granted more freedom and access to the EU zone than those countries who require visa travel to Europe.

How will ETIAS affect your travels to Europe?

As more and more countries will move from one list to the other and the citizens of these countries will be awarded visa-free travel to Europe, it is essential that the European authorities who control the external borders of the Schengen zone are prepared and able to deal with the rising number of visa-free travelers and any potential security or health threats that this increase could suppose.

ETIAS will be easy to access for all eligible citizens as an online application for a travel authorization to Europe which will require biometric passport information, travel details of the applicant and they will need to answer some basic security questions. The process of applying for an ETIAS will be quick and easy for all eligible travelers.

There will be no need to visit a consulate or embassy to obtain an ETIAS travel authorization nor will there be the need for unnecessary bureaucracy upon arrival in the destination airport. Eligible citizens will already have been screened when registering for an ETIAS for Europe online where the approval will be quick and sent digitally to their individual email address, thus facilitating travel to Europe for all eligible ETIAS countries.