Under the Schengen area’s coordinated visa policy, nationals from certain countries do not currently need a visa in order to enter the 26-country zone. Going forward, however, citizens of countries who have traditionally enjoyed visa-free access to the Schengen area will have to receive a kind of travel authorization in order to enter the European bloc. Known as the ETIAS visa waiver, this ETIAS authorization will be exclusively available to travelers who traditionally did not need a visa in order to access the zone. While the ETIAS is not yet operational, it is projected to launch in 2022, when it will be required for those same individuals who are seeking to travel to top countries like France, Germany, Italy and all the other states that comprise the area. Today’s blog will therefore address the upcoming process for applying for an ETIAS visa waiver, including how to access the ETIAS application, how to answer the ETIAS application form questions, and other relevant information related to the ETIAS travel process.
- The European Travel Information and Authorization System, abbreviated as ETIAS, is a type of electronic travel authorization that will soon be required from certain travelers who seek to enter the Schengen area.
- To obtain ETIAS authorization, would-be travelers will enter their biographical and travel information into an online application. The information the traveler enters will be checked against a security data base. Approved travelers will be granted an authorization, allowing them to enter the Schengen area, whereas rejected applicants will be barred from entering.
- The ETIAS visa waiver application is explained as applying exclusively to citizens of countries who have traditionally had visa-free access to the Schengen area. If you are a citizen of one of the countries below, you will likely need to apply for an ETIAS in order to enter the Schengen area once the system becomes operational:
31. Republic of Moldova
2. Antigua and Barbuda
33. New Zealand
7. Bosnia and Herzegovina
9. Brunei Darussalam
39. Saint Kitts and Nevis
40. Saint Lucia
41. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
13. Costa Rica
15. El Salvador
46. Solomon Islands
47. South Korea
20. Hong Kong
51. Trinidad and Tobago
54. United Arab Emirates
25. Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
55. United Kingdom
56. United States of America
27. Marshall Islands
- As a result of BREXIT, UK citizens, as well as, British nationals (Overseas), British overseas territories citizens (BOTC), British overseas citizens (BOC), British protected persons (BPP) and British subjects (BS), will all be required to issue an ETIAS.
- If you are not from one of the countries on the above list, you are likely from a state that does not currently enjoy visa-free access to the Schengen area. This means that if you want to travel to the Schengen area, you will apply for a Schengen visa, rather than an ETIAS authorization (the Schengen visa application process is entirely separate and distinct from the ETIAS application, as discussed below).
- ETIAS is expected to launch in 2022. Once the system becomes operational, citizens from the countries on the above list will need to apply and be approved for it in order to gain entry to the Schengen area.
- The goal of ETIAS is to help further secure the Schengen area by subjecting would-be travelers to the zone to what is essentially a background check. In doing so, ETIAS aims to increase the security of the Schengen area and reduce some of the security threats posed by visa-free travelers.
- Previously, travelers from countries who had visa-free access to the Schengen area were not subject to any security measures prior to entering the zone, which meant that the Schengen area essentially had zero control over the entry of citizens from visa-free countries.
- By requiring would-be Schengen travelers from visa-free countries to be approved for ETIAS as a condition for entry, the Schengen area can potentially screen for those travelers who would possibly threaten the security of the individual and collective Schengen states should they be allowed to enter.
Applying for an ETIAS visa waiver
- ETIAS applicants have the option of either applying for the authorization online or by downloading an application on their phone. The ETIAS visa waiver application will detail the specific steps to take to fill out and submit the form, once you access it.
- At some point during your application process, likely before you answer the below questions, you will be asked to submit payment for your authorization. The projected cost of an ETIAS for most applicants is at €7, although it is anticipated that individuals under 18 and over 70 will be exempt from fees.
- Once you pay the ETIAS fee, you will be directed toward the ETIAS application form, which asks you to submit biographical information and answer basic questions related to your identity and intended travel. Applicants will be asked to submit the following information related to their identity and travel plans:
- Full name
- Passport information (number, expiration date, etc).
- Criminal history (you will likely be asked whether or not you have previously been convicted of a crime/whether you/have ever been a member of a terrorist organization or fought/travelled to an active warzone.
- Country that represents your first point of entry into the Schengen area.
- Previous travel experience in the Schengen area (i.e. whether you have previously travelled to the zone, whether you have ever received or been rejected for a Schengen visa, or been deported from the area, etc).
- After you fill out the online application and submit payment, your information will be processed by the Schengen area security agencies, who will assess whether the data you provided is valid (for example, whether the information you provided on your form matches that of your passport), and run it through various EU security systems, including EUROPOOL, VIS, etc. This quick background check takes 10 minutes for most applicants.
- If you are approved for an ETIAS, you will receive an electronic authorization, which you will be asked to present at your boarding gate/official point of entry to the Schengen area.
ETIAS and Schengen Visa
- There are a number of crucial differences between the ETIAS and Schengen visa, the main one being that ETIAS are exclusively available to individuals from countries who do not need a Schengen visa in order to enter the zone. Therefore, if you are from one of the countries that does not have visa-free access to the Schengen area, you will not need to apply for an ETIAS.
- Applicants apply for Schengen visas through the country they are intending to visit in the Schengen area, by lodging a physical application with that country’s embassy, consulate, or visa application center; the ETIAS application process takes place entirely online.
- The Schengen visa application process involves the submission of a number of required documents and other materials; the only document required for the ETIAS application is a passport/valid travel document.
- The Schengen visa application process traditionally takes several weeks; ETIAS usually takes less than 10 minutes to complete. Most applicants for ETIAS will receive their decision after 10 minutes, whereas Schengen visa applicants usually receive a decision on their application within 15-30 days after submitting it.
- The cost of a Schengen visa for most applicants is €80 EUR; ETIAS is priced at €7.
- An ETIAS visa waiver is theoretically valid for three years (or until the passport you provided to obtain it expires). This is in contrast to the Schengen visa, which is only valid for 90 days within a 180-day period. This means that a traveler who receives his or her ETIAS, will not need to reapply for the authorization until it expires several years later. This is in contrast to Schengen visa holders, who essentially must apply for a new Schengen visa after their 90-day visa-validity period ends, in order to be allowed to make another trip to the Schengen area.
- Because the system is not yet operation, it is unclear how the ETIAS travel process will work in reality. The information presented above is valid as of publication, but could be subject to change.