If you are someone who frequently travels to the Schengen area from a third-country, you may have heard about something called the Entry/Exit System (EES). A new, electronic way to record the entries and exits of certain travelers into and out of the European Union, EES was created with the goal of streamlining the process currently represented by passport stampings at external EU boundaries. Read on to find out basic information about this new system, including which countries are subject to EES, how to register in the EES, and how it works generally. Additionally, this blog will answer commonly asked questions, including, “When will the EES system start?” and, “What is the access data in the EES?”.

The Entry/Exit System (EES)

  • At the moment non-EU travelers who cross an EU external border (i.e. enter the EU, either by flying into an airport located in an EU state, arriving by ship at an EU seaport, or driving through the land border of an EU state) will have their passport stamped to reflect their entry into the zone. 
  • With EES, a traveler will scan their passport and biometric information at an EES self-service kiosk, which will upload his or her information into the EES system. That information will be filtered through various EU security databases, such as Interpol, SLTD, and SIS. If flagged, a border guard will be notified, and make a decision on whether or not to allow the traveler entry. If a traveler passes the EES check, they will likely face no additional barriers to entering the EU.
  •  In addition to supporting border guards, EES will also help travelers identify the specific time left on their visas (if they have one) and relay other information relevant to their travel. 
  • In effect, EES will replace the physical act of stamping a passport by digitally “stamping” a traveler’s passport by recording his entry into an IT system
  • Because EES will be automatically activated anytime a traveler crosses an external EU land or sea border, it is hoped that the system will help border control officials target individuals who overstay their national or Schengen visas. 
  • The goal of EES is to streamline and further secure the process by which third-party entries to the EU are recorded and managed. If implemented correctly, EES should provide greater security to the Schengen area and its residents by identifying and reducing potential threats to the zone potentially posed by individuals who have exploited the physical-passport-stamping system to gain illegal access, enjoy overlong stays in the area, or even commit crimes or terrorism. Because it is automated, EES is also projected to reduce costs pursuant to this objective, which would otherwise be spent on additional manpower at physical EU entry points.   

How to register in the EES

  • At the moment, there is no indication that travelers will be asked to “register” for EES. Instead, travelers will automatically be enrolled in the system when they enter their information into the EES kiosk located at border-entry points. 
  • In this sense, the system is different from other newly proposed EU travel-management systems, such as ETIAS (the European Travel Information Authorized System), which applies exclusively to citizens of countries who have visa-free access to the Schengen area, and which travelers are required to apply for (and be approved for) prior to travelling to the Schengen area, in order to gain entry.
  • In summary, travelers do not need to worry about “registering” or “applying” or being “rejected” for EES. However, a traveler’s refusal to participate in EES, (i.e. refusing to submit his or her information into the automated kiosk) will likely be grounds to reject that person’s entry into the Schengen area. In this sense, participation in EES is “required” for travelers who wish to enter the EU going forward.  

What is the access data in the EES?

  • In addition to noting when and where a traveler has entered the EU, EES will also record the traveler’s biometric information (including photo and fingerprints) as well as the relevant information contained within their passport. 
  • Any data that is entered into EES will be accessed primarily by competent consular authorities and official personnel working at physical EU entry points. 
  • Additionally, EU security agencies (such as Interpol) and those of the respective EU countries will receive access to information pursuant to their objective of maintaining collective and individual security in the Schengen area generally and within individual states in particular. 

Which countries are subject to EES?

  • Only citizens from non-EU, non-Schengen countries will be subject to the Entry/Exit System (EES). 
  • This means that if you are not from one of the 37 EU countries, you will be subject to EES—even if you are from one of the countries that enjoys visa-free access to the Schengen area. 
  • The non-EU Schengen states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland are tentatively subject to EES, although this could change going forward. 
  • Please note that citizens of Andorra, Monaco, and San Marino will not be subject to EES—despite not being official EU or Schengen Member States. 

When will the EES system start?

  • It’s important to note that the Entry/Exit System (EES) is not yet operational. If all goes smoothly, the system is intended to launch sometime in the first six months of next year (2022). 
  • Because the system has yet to be actually implemented, information about it is at this point completely theoretical. It is possible that some or all of the information contained above will need to be updated to reflect how it works once EES is truly operational.