By 2021, the European Union will implement a travel authorization system called the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). The aim of this security system is to screen travelers prior to their arrival in Europe, similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program currently in place in the United States. Prospective visitors to certain European countries will have to apply for a travel authorization before being permitted to enter the Schengen Area.

How ETIAS will work

Before their arrival in the Schengen Area, visa-exempt travelers will be asked to apply online for a travel authorization. Visitors will provide personal details (e.g., name, passport number, travel plan information) and answer questions about their background, including prior criminal convictions or previous entry denials. This information will be provided via an online ETIAS form.

The applicant’s data will then be checked against European and global security databases, including SIS, VIS, EUROPOL, and ECRIS. If the traveler is cleared for entry into the Schengen Area, the applicant will receive the travel authorization within a matter of minutes and will be valid for 3 years. Applicants that because of any outstanding issues will require manual processing may take up to 2 weeks, at which point the traveler will be notified of the decision and justification for the denial.

Revoking or annulling ETIAS authorizations

Once an ETIAS travel authorization is granted, this does not mean that a traveler is guaranteed admission to the ETIAS countries. An ETIAS can be denied, revoked, or annulled by authorities. Border officers have the ultimate decision as to whether or not a traveler may enter the Schengen Area, regardless if they have been granted an ETIAS authorization.

An approved ETIAS authorization can also be revoked or annulled by the authorities of Member States or by the ETIAS National Unit of the Member State. The decision to revoke or annul a travel authorization that has already been granted is taken when evidence exists that the ETIAS authorization was obtained fraudulently or if the conditions under which the authorization was issued are no longer met.

ETIAS travel authorizations can also be revoked if there is a new alert in European security databases regarding a refusal of entry or a reported lost or stolen travel document. ETIAS Central Unit will then corroborate that the alert in question corresponds to a particular travel authorization. In these cases, the Member State will be responsible for revoking the ETIAS travel authorization. Applicants will also have the right to appeal.

Once launched, the ETIAS program will increase security by screening passengers before they arrive in Europe. Given the recent wave of terrorist attacks on the continent, European authorities hope that implementing a travel authorization program will curb or discourage further attacks.