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After the Brexit vote and subsequent negotiations, British travelers are now considered “third-country nationals” and are subject to various restrictions. As a result, holders of British passports must have their travel documents inspected and stamped.
In the upcoming autumn of 2024, additional measures will be implemented that may increase bureaucratic processes. However, there is a positive aspect as passport stamping will no longer be required. On the other hand, all travelers will be required to undergo fingerprinting and provide a facial biometric.
The European Union has proposed implementing an “Entry/Exit System” (EES) to track the travel of non-EU visitors. According to the current plan, UK travelers to the Schengen area will need to apply online for authorization to enter by mid-2025.
The Schengen region includes the majority of the 27 remaining nations in the European Union (excluding Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, and Romania), as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.
The Etias, or Electronic Travel Information and Authorisation System, will further strengthen border security. Its success relies on the full functionality of EES and is expected to launch in mid-2025.
The online permit, priced at €7 (£6), will be valid for a duration of three years upon its introduction.
What does the “Entry/Exit System” refer to?
The Entry/Exit System is a computerized system that records the information of citizens from non-EU and non-Schengen countries.
This system is intended for travelers who are crossing an external border within the Schengen region, such as flying from the UK to Spain or driving from Greece to Turkey. It will not be utilized for borders within the Schengen area.
EES will record the date and location of entry or departure, as well as fingerprints and a facial biometric data.
According to the European Union, this system will supersede the current process of manually stamping passports. This current process is inefficient, unreliable for recording border crossings, and does not facilitate the identification of individuals who overstay their designated period of time.
British travellers, like other “third-country nationals,” are restricted to 90 days’ stay in any 180 days within the Schengen area. But enforcement of this currently depends on checking passport stamps and is applied haphazardly.
When is the starting time?
The planned launch date for EES was set for 2021. However, the organization in charge of carrying out the project, the European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (EU-LISA), has delayed the launch multiple times due to the database not being fully prepared.
In October 2023, the European Council’s Justice and Home Affairs Council approved a revised schedule for implementing the EES system.
The council announced that the new IT architecture plan includes a timeline for the Entry/Exit System to be operational by autumn 2024.
What is the process for biometric checks?
Passengers leaving and arriving at airports abroad will complete necessary procedures, similar to those of US immigration, when entering and exiting the Schengen area.
The extended duration of the new procedures has caused concern among certain EU countries. The Slovenian government has cautioned, “The new process requires up to four times more time.”
It may be even more difficult for land travelers.
Tim Reardon, the head of EU exit for the Port of Dover, testified to Parliament about the new system and clarified that there are no e-gates for cars or group travel. These processes must be done one-at-a-time.
It is not possible to perform a biometric check without requiring everyone to exit the vehicle.
“That is the one occurrence on our website that is not possible, as it would disrupt live traffic. It would be like expecting drivers to exit their vehicles at a toll booth on a busy highway. This poses a safety risk and is not feasible.”
Gareth Williams, the director of strategy at Eurostar, a train company that operates between London and France, stated that a feasible solution is not currently apparent. During the busiest month of August, it is estimated that up to 80% of travelers will need to utilize the system.
“Our space limitations are very severe. We would need a minimum of 30 kiosks and an area equivalent to our check-in area at St Pancras.”
The regulations will not affect individuals from the EU.
When will Etias begin?
The long-awaited program is expected to commence in the middle of 2025. A six-month “grace period” is expected to be given, which means that Etias may not become mandatory until 2026.
Is Etias considered a visa?
According to European regulations, Etias is considered a “pre-travel authorization system.” This system is comparable to the US Esta, Canadian eTA, and British ETA, which are not classified as visas, but rather granted to foreign travelers who do not need a traditional visa.
The European Union states that the main purpose is to confirm if a non-EU citizen fulfills the necessary criteria for entry prior to visiting the Schengen zone.
Since Etias mandates that visitors submit an application beforehand, disclose a significant amount of personal details, make a payment, and obtain a permit in order to cross a border, it is often referred to as a “eurovisa”.
What is the price?
The cost for individuals between the ages of 18 and 70 is €7 (£6). However, applicants under the age of 18 or over the age of 70 will still be required to obtain an Etias, but it will not incur a fee.
How do I submit an application?
Once the EU is prepared, the central component of the system will be an Etias application and website. Individuals will need to provide personal details such as their name, address, contact information in Europe, and passport information. They will also need to disclose their occupation, including job title and employer. Students will need to provide the name of their educational institution.
The individual applying must disclose any significant criminal records within the last two decades.
Travellers must also provide online the reason for their journey (holiday, business, visiting family, etc), specify the country they will first arrive in, and provide the address of their first night’s stay – which will pose a problem for tourists who like to make plans as they go along.
Similar to other electronic travel authorizations, commercial agents are permitted. However, according to Frontex, the organization responsible for implementing Etias in the EU, there are numerous fraudulent websites that may charge significantly higher fees than the standard €7 (£6).
Any site other than europa.eu/etias is unofficial and should not be trusted.
A fraudulent website purports to have already processed 671 applications, which is not feasible as no applications have been processed anywhere.
A different website provides a 40% reduction for applications submitted in advance. It has been noted that some sites unlawfully use the EU emblem.
Frontex cautions against the danger of identity theft when giving personal information to fraudulent websites.
What occurs to the data?
Each application will undergo verification against both EU and relevant Interpol databases, as well as a specific watch-list created for Etias.
The system will be adjusted to identify individuals who are suspected of participating in acts of terrorism, armed robbery, child pornography, fraud, money laundering, cybercrime, human smuggling, illegal trading of endangered animals, counterfeiting, and industrial espionage.
What is the recommended time frame for submitting an application?
The European Union strongly recommends obtaining the Etias travel authorization prior to purchasing tickets and making hotel reservations.
The goal is to obtain an Etias in a matter of minutes, although a simple application may take up to four days.
If an app is marked as suspicious (meaning it matches with a database entry), the user may be required to give more details. Otherwise, according to the EU, the user may be invited to take part in an interview with local authorities, which could add up to 30 days to the process.
If your request is approved, no certificate will be given and there is no need for any printed materials. The border guard will retrieve the necessary information from the passport submitted during the application process.
If there is a mix-up in identifying me, can I make an appeal?
Yes, instructions on how to appeal will be provided with the rejection notice.
Will I definitely be allowed into the Schengen area once I have an Etias?
According to the EU, having a travel authorization does not guarantee entry into a country. Similar to the US, individuals can be denied entry for various reasons.
There is probably a system in place for the cancellation of an Etias.
Is it necessary for me to obtain an Etias every time I visit Europe?
The permit will remain valid for either three years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first.
Do I require an Etias for my trip to Ireland?
The Common Travel Area, which includes the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands, is not bound by European Union regulations. Additionally, Ireland is not part of the Schengen area.
Do I need an Etias if I already have a long-term permit from an EU country?
What is the process for individuals who do not have internet connectivity to submit their application?
They will need to enlist the help of a friend, family member, or travel agent to complete the application for them, similar to the process for obtaining a US ESTA or other similar programs.
Could you please refresh our memory on the 90/180 day regulation?
After exiting the European Union, the UK requested to adhere to this regulation, which states that British travelers are limited to a maximum of 90 days within a 180-day period.
For instance, if you were to stay in the Schengen area for the first 90 days of 2024 (January, February, and most of March), you would not be able to come back until late June.
Is Brexit the cause of all of this?
The process of reinforcing the external border of the European Union was already in progress prior to the UK’s vote on membership in June 2016.
Etias would not be necessary if the UK remained a part of the EU. However, the country chose to withdraw from the European Union and the British government made arrangements for British travelers to be considered as citizens of third countries, resulting in additional bureaucratic procedures.