A digital system that screens Schengen-area-bound travelers for security threats, the European Travel Information Authorization System (ETIAS) is expected to debut toward the end of 2022. When it does, citizens and residents of countries who enjoy visa-free access to the Schengen area (i.e. applicants from the visa waiver countries) will need to receive an ETIAS visa waiver (also known as the ETIAS registration form) in order to enter the zone. Once the system is operational, anyone who is pursuing travel to the Schengen area who needs an ETIAS to enter the zone will apply for it online, prior to traveling. Those who meet the ETIAS requirements, fill out the ETIAS registration form, and are approved for an ETIAS, will be free to enter and travel throughout the entire Schengen area—a group of 26 European countries including France, Germany, and Italy. While ETIAS is not a visa (you don’t apply for it from country-consulate) it is, in effect, a kind of travel document granting access to a large group of countries. The application process is entirely online and is expected to take under 10 minutes for the vast majority of applicants. Travelers simply enter their basic biographical and travel details into the website or app, pay a small fee, and wait for their information to be processed through various EU security systems (Interpool, SIS, etc). If no flags come up (i.e. the EU security systems collectively do not judge you to present a security threat to the Schengen area, you will receive your authorization for entry to zone, which is valid for a minimum of three years. Today’s blog will therefore answer the general question of “How does ETIAS work?” by providing a checklist for the ETIAS visa waiver application process and the ETIAS requirements.

  • Check if you need an ETIAS for where you are traveling
    • The ETIAS applies to applicants from the visa waiver countries. This means that it will cover the following 26 Schengen Member States: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland. 
    • In addition to the above 26 Schengen states, ETIAS is also set embrace the four pending Schengen-states: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania. 
    • If you are traveling to any of the above 26 Schengen Member States or the four soon-to-be Schengen states covered under ETIAS, you may need to apply for the authorization, depending on your nationality (see below).
  • Check whether you are required to obtain ETIAS
    • Remember that only travelers from certain non-European Union countries are required to apply for ETIAS. 
    • Going forward, ETIAS will only affect travelers looking to enter the Schengen area from visa-exempt countries. If you are a citizen or resident of a country that does not currently have visa-free-access to the zone, you do not need to apply for ETIAS. Finally, if you require a Schengen visa in order to enter the Schengen area, you will not need to apply for ETIAS—your Schengen visa is enough for you to enter and travel throughout the zone. 
    • To see if your country is on the ETIAS-required country list, click here
  • Get your passport ready 
    • Remember, the ETIAS is not a visa, and you will not need to upload numerous ETIAS forms and documents in order to apply for it. The only thing you will need is your travel document (passport). Therefore, the first item on the ETIAS checklist is to get your passport and make sure that it is valid. You will need a valid passport in order to apply for ETIAS; you will enter your passport information when you access the ETIAS form.
    • Therefore, if you do not have a valid travel document, do not even bother attempting to apply for the ETIAS. 
  • Access ETIAS application  
    • The ETIAS application will be accessible online, either through the ETIAS website or via app, which will be available for download on your phone. You should access whichever platform is easiest for you. 
  • Pay the ETIAS fee 
    • Even prior to reviewing and submitting the application, you must pay your ETIAS application fee in order to access the online application. The ETIAS fee is currently set at 7€ EUR. You will likely be able to pay by credit or debit card. 
    • Please note that applicants younger than 18 and older than 70 will be exempt from ETIAS application fees
    • Once your ETIAS application fees have been accepted you will be able to progress to the actual application.
  • Fill out the ETIAS application 
    • The ETIAS application page will consist of the form questions—which include a number of basic biographical queries—as well as questions relating to immigration and security. 
    • Basic biographical information will include your name, birthdate, country where you were born, country of residence, etc. In addition, you will likely have to enter your passport information (passport number, date valid until, etc), as well as information about where specifically you are traveling in the Schengen area (such as where you will enter the zone). 
    • Remember that the purpose of ETIAS is to guard against threats to the general Schengen area by weeding out applicants who pose a potential criminal or security risk to the zone. Because of this, all applicants have to answer questions about their criminal history (or lack thereof). Along these lines, you may be asked whether you have ever been convicted of a crime in your home country or the Schengen area, whether you have ever been a member of a terrorist organization or travelled in a war zone, etc. 
    • In addition to questions about your biography and criminal background, you should also be prepared to answer questions about your general immigration history, particularly in the Schengen area. For example, you may be asked whether you have previously traveled to the Schengen area and/or been deported from a Schengen state (or from any country other than your country-of residence). Remember that the purpose of these questions is to determine whether or not you will overstay your time in the Schengen area, or whether you are at risk of seeking refuge there, etc. 
  • Await your decision 
    • After reviewing and submitting the application, you will await your decision. 
    • Keep in mind that the vast majority of applicants will be approved for an ETIAS within 10 minutes of when applying for an ETIAS. If you are one of those applicants, you can proceed with planning the rest of your trip. 
    • If you are one of the estimated 5% of applicants who is likely to be flagged by the ETIAS security system, your application could take much longer (up to four weeks) to be processed. Applicants whose applications are judged to require greater scrutiny will be checked over personally by a staff member (verses a computer) at the ETIAS Central Unit and ETIAS National Unit(s). 
    • If your application is subject to longer processing times and is approved, you can proceed with your trip. If your ETIAS application is ultimately rejected, you will be informed of the reason(s) for its rejection, and be provided the opportunity to appeal. 
  • Present your ETIAS at Schengen border for entry 
    • Assuming you have been approved for ETIAS and proceed with your trip, you will be asked to present your ETIAS authorization upon reaching the physical Schengen border (if you are entering via land) or upon boarding a Schengen-bound flight (if flying/boating into a Schengen Member State, you will need to present you ETIAS authorization in order to get on the plane/vessel. If Schengen border security judges your ETIAS authorization to be valid, you will be allowed entry into the Schengen area, if not, you will be unable to proceed into the zone. 
  • Travel throughout the Schengen area!
    • Once you gain access to the Schengen area, you will not need to present your ETIAS again, even when entering a new Schengen state (due to the borderless nature of the Schengen zone.
  • Continue to uphold your ETIAS terms and conditions in order to enjoy its privileges 
    • Please note that it is possible for you to have your ETIAS taken away from you in the event that you are judged to have given false information on the form questions—or if you no longer meet its terms and conditions re security and criminality. Because of this risk, you should make sure to conduct yourself responsibly throughout your time in the Schengen area and not violate any of its various national laws. 
    • If you continue to uphold your terms and conditions when applying for an ETIAS, you will be able to use your ETIAS to travel to the Schengen area until your passport expires (or for a maximum of three years—whichever period is longer).  

Still wondering how does ETIAS work? Contact us here.