The European Travel Information and Authorisation System also known as ETIAS, proposed in 2016 by the European Parliament and European Council, once it is implemented, will require applicants to obtain an online visa waiver before traveling to Europe.

Travelers will have to complete an ETIAS application online giving certain information regarding their travel history, personal details and passport data as well as answer some basic questions assessing certain risk factors for travelers to Europe such as migratory, health and security information.

These ETIAS applications will be screened against various security databases of which the ETIAS Watchlist will be one, along with the SIS, VIS, ECRIS and proposed EES etc.

What does the ETIAS watchlist do?

The purpose of the ETIAS watchlist is quite straightforward: it serves as a list of people who have committed or are likely to commit a criminal offence. The watchlist stores data on these individuals in order to keep track of potential threats to Europe.

The ETIAS watchlist includes not only convicted criminals but will also record information about those who are a potential threat to European security based on the grounds of reasonable belief.

There are three contributing agencies that make up the ETIAS watchlist:

  • The UN list of war criminals;
  • Information on any person who has committed or is thought to be likely to commit terrorist offences or major criminal offences, provided by EU member states;
  • And information on any person who has committed or is thought to be likely to commit terrorist offences or major criminal offences, provided by international cooperation.

Who will be responsible for the ETIAS watchlist?

The ETIAS Watchlist will be established and maintained by Europol, the European law enforcement organization. Among their other responsibilities Europol will create and manage the ETIAS Watchlist as part of the ETIAS initiative to improve security within Europe.

How will the ETIAS watchlist affect people traveling to Europe?

Once tourists wishing to visit Europe have completed their quick online ETIAS form, it will be sent to be reviewed digitally comparing the information entered with the information stored in various security systems including the ETIAS Watchlist.

If there is a hit is the automatic processing, the application will be reviewed manually. From here, the decision will be taken whether to grant the ETIAS visa waiver or not.

If the European travel authorization is granted, the applicant will receive an approval email with their ETIAS visa waiver and the information necessary for presenting it when required, thus allowing the applicant entrance to the ETIAS Schengen zone.

If, however, the applicant is denied the ETIAS travel authorization for whatever reason, a justification may be given depending on the agency responsible for reviewing the application and the applicant will have the right to appeal.

Countries who do not participate in ETIAS, such as the UK post-Brexit and those not included in the ETIAS Schengen list of countries, will have no access to the ETIAS Watchlist and will maintain their own Europol policies for immigration and security purposes.

At present, it is still not entirely clear how the ETIAS watchlist will be managed by Europol and the exact working procedures of the service but as the initial 2021 deadline for ETIAS grows nearer, these factors will soon become apparent.