Thursday, June 13, 2024

Europe Is Launching New Entry Requirements. When Exactly Will Travelers Need to Apply?

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As many travelers may have heard by now, the rules for entering Europe’s Schengen countries are set to change. Sometime in the not-so-distant future (more on this to come), U.S. citizens who want to travel to the 27 member countries of Europe’s Schengen Zone will need to register in advance with the forthcoming European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) and pay a fee of 7 euros in order to enter countries that include France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain, and Sweden, among others.

The European Commission, which creates and implements policies for the European Union, proposed the new rules for entry back in 2016 “to strengthen security checks on those persons who travel visa-free to the EU,” Anitta Hipper, the European Commission’s spokesperson for home affairs, migration, and internal security, tells AFAR.

When will Europe’s New ETIAS travel regulations go into effect?

Initially meant to come into effect on January 1, 2021, the launch of ETIAS has been delayed several times and is currently slated to enter into operation in 2024—but exactly when in 2024 remains to be seen. That’s due in part to the fact that the launch of ETIAS relies on the establishment of Europe’s new tech-driven Entry/Exit System (EES) that will keep track of visitors as they cross borders. EES was supposed to go live in May 2023, but it has been pushed back until at least the end of 2023 and possibly into mid-2024.

“Making sure these systems can all talk to each other is key,” says Hipper. “ETIAS relies on data provided by the EES to identify risks.” She adds that the goal is for Europe’s ETIAS travel authorization system to start operating within six months after EES does.

When will we know the exact date of the launch of ETIAS?

An updated timeline for the EES and ETIAS systems will be presented in October, according to Hipper. In other words, we’ll know more in October 2023.

The European agency responsible for developing the EES and the ETIAS information systems (known as eu-LISA) concurs, telling AFAR in statement that “a new timeline for the technical preparedness of interoperability, of which EES and ETIAS are a part, should be presented in October 2023.”

In a July meeting in the House of Parliament in the United Kingdom—the U.K. is preparing to launch a similar Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) system by the end of 2024—delegates hinted that the introduction of the EES might not take place until after the Paris Summer 2024 Olympics. The U.K. is closely watching the development of EES and ETIAS as its citizens will also need to register with the new systems when they go live.

How to apply for ETIAS

Right now, since there is no launch date for ETIAS, there is no official website yet for submitting applications. ETIAS.com serves as a landing page for news, updates, and information regarding the new travel authorization process. Once the ETIAS application is made available online, it should only take about 10 minutes to fill out. To apply, you’ll need a valid passport, an email address, and a debit or credit card to pay the nonrefundable 7-euro application fee, which applies to individuals between the ages of 18 and 70. Those under the age of 18 or over 70 still need to have an ETIAS but will not be charged. There are no other fees associated with the program.

After filling out the application, travelers will receive confirmation of their ETIAS approval within 96 hours or less. “A small percentage of applications may take up to four weeks to process if additional documentation is required from the applicant. If your ETIAS has not yet been approved and you do not have any other travel authorization, you will not be able to enter a country within the European Union,” according to the ETIAS website.

After you apply for the first time, your ETIAS authorization will be valid for three years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. Because the ETIAS is valid for short-term stays of up to 90 days for both leisure and business travelers, you’ll be able to re-enter Europe multiple times within that three-year period without renewing it, as long as your stay doesn’t exceed 90 days within a 180-day period. Those who want to study or work in Europe will need to apply for a proper work or study visa.

To be clear, ETIAS is not a visa. A visa grants permission to enter a country and may require a consulate or embassy visit along with a more in-depth application. ETIAS does not require any of that, and it is specifically for travelers entering Europe from visa-free countries (including the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Australia). In fact, the U.S. already has a similar process in place, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), for visitors from countries that otherwise do not require a visa.

“An ETIAS travel authorization does not reintroduce visa-like obligations,” explains a fact sheet provided by the European Commission. “There is no need to go to a consulate to make an application, no biometric data is collected, and significantly less information is gathered than during a visa application procedure.”

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