If you are a frequent traveler to Schengen area, you may have started hearing about a travel document called the “European Travel Information and Authorization System.” But what is a ETIAS visa waiver? And what are the ETIAS requirements? Today’s blog will address some of the most frequently asked questions pertaining to the travel authorization, such as “How much does it cost to apply for ETIAS?” And, “Does having a criminal record affect your ETIAS application?” And, “When will the ETIAS application be available?” And finally, “Which countries need the ETIAS visa waiver?”
What is the ETIAS visa waiver?
- ETIAS is a travel authorization which travelers from certain countries will need to obtain in order to enter the Schengen area, which is a group of 20+ states located in Europe.
- While ETIAS is not technically a visa, it is visa-esque, in that it is a document (albeit in digital form) required of travelers, for entry into certain countries.
- The purpose of ETIAS is to ensure that the Schengen area is protected from the entry of people who would, in the absence of ETIAS, otherwise not face any type of security screening when they attempted to enter the EU/Schengen area, and who might present a security threat to the zone. ETIAS therefore affects people who don’t traditionally require a visa to enter the Schengen area. ETIAS makes those people submit their identifying information, which is then subject to analysis by a variety of EU/Schengen security systems.
- For example, at the moment, American citizens do not need a Schengen visa in order to enter any of the Schengen states. As a result, an American who has a dangerous criminal history would likely be able to travel freely to the Schengen area without facing any barriers to his entry. Without some sort of mechanism to pre-screen potentially dangerous travelers, the Schengen states would have no way of identifying him as a threat, and by extension, no way to stop him from entering the zone. The Schengen area is only able to prevent the entry of persons who go through the process of applying for a visa. Through ETIAS, therefore, the Schengen states regain some control over their borders.
Which countries need ETIAS visa waiver?
- Going forward, 26 countries will require an ETIAS visa waiver. All of these 26 countries are members of the Schengen area, a block of European countries which share a common visa policy. These 26 countries are the following:
- Austria, Belgium, the 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.
- After ETIAS becomes operational, ETIAS will apply to the above countries, meaning that you may have to apply for ETIAS in order to enter any of them (depending on your nationality).
What are ETIAS requirements?
- The ETIAS requirements are minimal relative to those for the Schengen visa, unlike the Schengen visa requirements, which include the submission of multiple forms, as well as in-person responsibilities such as an interview and biometric data submission. ETIAS requirements therefore include the following:
- Passport number
- Email address
- ETIAS application form
- ETIAS application fee
How much does it cost to apply for ETIAS?
- The cost of ETIAS is projected to be 7 EUR, payable by credit or debit.
- Please note that only applicants between the ages of 18-70 are liable for ETIAS fees (meaning if you are older or younger the cost of the application is free).
Does having a criminal record affect your ETIAS application?
- The short answer to this question is “Yes.” Having a criminal record will affect your ETIAS application, because the point of ETIAS is to screen for the entry of people with a criminal history. While those with criminal backgrounds are not automatically denied an ETIAS, they are more likely to have their application come under scrutiny, which could result in delayed processing times.
- Ultimately, entry to the Schengen area is predicated on a person being judged not to present a risk to the zone in terms of criminality or terrorism. If you have a criminal background, and the offense for which you were criminally charged was a non-violent one, or if it was a long time ago, or if there are mitigating circumstances, you likely will not face barriers to entering the zone. However, if you are judged to present a risk, you likely will be denied entry.
- If possible, would-be ETIAS applicants with criminal history should apply earlier than applicants without such a history, in order to ensure that they receive their ETIAS in time to travel.
- If you have a criminal history and are concerned about your ETIAS application being denied, please contact us here.
How to apply for ETIAS?
- Unlike a traditional visa, how to apply for ETIAS does not depend either on where you are located or where you are traveling to in the Schengen area.
- When ETIAS becomes operational, applicants will simply download the app or access the online website. Once they do, they will follow the application instructions, which includes the following steps:
- 1. Pay the ETIAS application fee (i.e. entering their credit/debit card information when prompted, in order to pay the 7 EUR fee).
- 2. Fill out the online application.
- Filling out the online ETIAS application entails answering questions about yourself (including basic biographical information like your complete name, date of birth, and nationality) your travel info (where you are going, where you have gone previously—including whether you have ever gone to any “dangerous” countries or had any previous visa issues.
- In addition to inputting required info, you will also be asked to submit your passport number and other passport information.
- 3. Submit your application.
- After you submit your application, it is sent immediately to be screened by a variety of security services. These systems will “look over” your application to see if you are identified in any security databases (such as having a criminal or terrorist record, for example).
- Those who have never been convicted of a crime or who are not on any sort of terrorist watchlist will be immediately approved for ETIAS (and will receive their ETIAS—in their email—in under 10 minutes).
- Those who have a criminal history or who are otherwise flagged by the system will find their application subjected to more intense scrutiny. Instead of taking minutes, this process could take hours, or even days or weeks.
- 4. Enter Europe with ETIAS.
- After you receive your ETIAS, you will be able to use it to enter any of the European Schengen states (simply show it to whichever border control official asks to see it).
Where to apply for ETIAS?
- The ETIAS application is entirely online, via the app or official website.
- Therefore, unlike a traditional visa, where to apply for ETIAS does not depend on where you are located; because there are no in-person ETIAS requirements, you do not need to travel to a specific location in order to submit your passport. you can apply for ETIAS from anywhere you are able to access the internet.
- Please note that because ETIAS is not yet live, you will not yet be able to access either the application or the app.
When will ETIAS application be available?
- As mentioned above, ETIAS is not live, and is not expected to be available until 2022 (toward the end of the year).
Who needs ETIAS visa waiver?
- Who needs ETIAS visa waiver? You will need an ETIAS if you do not currently need a visa in order to travel to the Schengen area. The countries whose citizens will need an ETIAS are those who currently do not need a visa for the purpose of visiting the Schengen area.
- Countries that do not enjoy visa free travel to the Schengen area (i.e. those whose citizens must pursue a Schengen visa in order to enter the zone) do not need to apply for ETIAS. Because the Schengen visa process already includes a strict security screening, those who go through it are considered to already have obtained a de-facto security clearance (making the requirement of going through essentially the same screening again unnecessary).
- The following is a selection of countries whose citizens will need to apply for ETIAS in order to enter the Schengen area: the United States, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Japan.
- The following is a selection of countries whose citizens will not need to apply for ETIAS in order to enter the Schengen area: Russia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Mozambique, and Turkey.
Is ETIAS live?
- Because there is much discussion surrounding ETIAS, many people have been wondering “Is ETIAS live, and will I need it if I travel right now?” However, ETIAS is not live at the moment (the system is expected to debut by the year end of 2022. Therefore, if you are planning on traveling to the Schengen area this year, or even into the next, you will not need to worry about applying for the authorization.
How long is ETIAS valid for?
- Some people who will have to apply for the travel authorization are anxiously wondering, “How long is ETIAS valid for?” For those worrying that they will have to apply and be approved for ETIAS every time they want to travel to the Schengen area—fear not. ETIAS will likely be valid for at least three years, meaning that once you successfully apply for the authorization, you will not need to re-apply for it until three years later.
Is ETIAS a Schengen visa?
- ETIAS is technically not a visa because of the following reasons:
- Applicants for ETIAS apply online—applicants for Schengen visas apply in-person.
- Applicants for ETIAS apply through an app/website—applicants for Schengen visas apply through country consulates/embassies.
- Applicants for ETIAS apply to the Schengen area generally—applicants for Schengen visas apply through a specific Schengen country (i.e. their primary destination in the Schengen area).
- The ETIAS application costs 7 EUR—the Schengen visa application costs 80 EUR.
- The ETIAS application asks that you input your passport number—Schengen visa applicants must physically submit their passport when they apply.
- ETIAS applicants do not have to submit any required documents—Schengen visa applicants must submit numerous forms and documents.
- The average processing time for ETIAS applications is 10 minutes for most applicants—the average processing time for Schengen visa applications is two weeks (and they can take anywhere from 30-60 days to ultimately be processed.