Starting in 2024, some travellers to countries in the European Union will have a new hoop to jump through before they embark on their journey.
Following new travel authorisation rules announced by the EU under the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), prospective visitors from more than 60 "visa-exempt" countries, including the United States and UAE, will have to fill out an online application and pay a small fee before traveling to any of the 30 European countries.
Here's what travellers need to know:
When will the EU start accepting applications?
The official ETIAS website says the EU will open applications "from 2024." An exact date has not been announced yet.
Which countries are requiring ETIAS?
Travellers who are exempt from the requirement of a visa to enter Europe's Schengen Area, comprising 22 European Union member states and a few other European nations, will be obligated to undergo mandatory ETIAS registration.
In total, 30 countries will require ETIAS: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
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Who needs to apply to visit an EU country?
Any national of the visa-exempt countries to the EU who is looking to travel to an EU country for a short-term stay must apply for ETIAS authorisation. These visa-exempt countries include the US, UAE, Canada, the UK and Mexico.
A short-term stay is defined by the European Union as any stay (or combination of stays) up to 90 days within a 180-day period. Stateless people living in and with a travel document from one of the visa-exempt countries or Ireland will also be required to apply for ETIAS authorisation.
ETIAS can also be used in place of a visa for certain people who are nationals of visa-required countries. The full list of those eligible for this exception include students on a school trip who are nationals of visa-required countries but reside in any of the visa-exempt countries, Switzerland or Liechtenstein.
How much does it cost to apply?
There is will be a fee of 7 euros, or roughly $8, attached to the online application for ETIAS authorization. This authorization is valid for three years or earlier, if the travel document used to fill out the application expires before the authorization does. Once used, this authorization is only valid for short-term stays, or 90 days of travel within a 180-day period.
What information do I have to provide to ETIAS?
To apply, prospective travellers will have to provide personal information including their name, date of birth, nationality, address, parents' names, email address and phone number. They will also be asked to share their current occupation and level of education, as well as details about intended travel and stay in EU countries.
Applicants must also include details of the document they will be using to travel, such as a passport. There are special requirements for eligibility for travel documents from some countries (not including the US).
ETIAS applicants will also be asked to provide details about any criminal convictions among other personal information.
- The online application process for ETIAS will require you to provide the following information:
- Personal data: Your name, date and place of birth, your parents' names, your nationality, home address, email address, and phone number.
- Passport information: The number, type, and issuing country of your passport, as well as its expiration date.
- Education and occupation: Your level of education and your current occupation.
- Travel plans: The country of your first intended stay in Europe, as well as the address of your destination.
- Security information: Any criminal record, past deportations, or past travel to zones experiencing conflict.
Under specific circumstances, applicants might be requested to furnish supplementary documentation or undergo an interview as part of the process.
When do travelers need to register for ETIAS?
Once the ETIAS scheme is in place, you will need to have a valid ETIAS document to travel to Europe. If you do not have an ETIAS document, you will be denied boarding or entry.
The EU promises that most travelers will be approved for ETIAS quickly, but it is best to apply for ETIAS at least a month before your travel date. Some applicants may be asked to provide additional information or documentation, or to participate in an interview. This process may take up to an additional 30 days.
As with any major new shift in entry requirements, there may be some hiccups and delays. It is important to be prepared and to apply for ETIAS well in advance of your travel date.
How do I know I've been approved?
Once the system is up and running, ETIAS applicants will receive an email confirming their application has been submitted. This email will have an application number that is important to keep for future reference. Once an application has been processed, travelers will receive a second email with the authorisation decision.
How long will it take for ETIAS to approve me?
Most applications should be processed within minutes of applying, but prospective travelers should expect to receive an application decision within four days. Exceptions are if additional documentation or information is needed, or if applicants are asked to be interviewed.
If approved, travelers should confirm that all their personal information is correct; if there is a mistake that isn't corrected before travel, the authorization will not be valid to cross into the E.U. If an authorization is for some reason rejected, applicants can appeal the decision.
How far in advance do I need to apply?
Starting in 2024, prospective travelers should apply for ETIAS certification at least a month before their planned travel date, and ideally before that. This is because it could take an additional 30 days beyond the normal turnaround time if you're flagged for an interview. In the case of a rejected application, an appeals process would be necessary to travel.
Travelers must be in possession of their ETIAS authorization throughout their entire stay in the EU. While the authorisation is necessary to enter the EU, it does not guarantee entry at border control. Travelers must still meet established EU entry requirements, which include having a passport or other travel document that is valid for the duration of their stay and at least three months afterward.
Will ETIAS requirements slow me down at airports?
Since ETIAS authorisation is a new process, there's a chance it could slow down the line at passport control, potentially creating problems for tight flight connections. Right now, if a US traveller is flying to one country in the Schengen zone by way of a connecting flight in another Schengen zone country, they will have to go through passport control before getting on their connecting flight.
"Even before ETIAS, this process can cost a fair bit of time, which adds stress to a tight connection," Hewitt said. "Once ETIAS is implemented, especially at first, I could imagine it might cause slower passport processing and longer delays. In 2024, I'll be careful not to cut it too close on those layovers, until it's clear whether this is an issue."
Can I trust unofficial ETIAS sites?
According to the European Union, there are "dozens" of unofficial ETIAS sites that offer information on the upcoming system, with some illegally using the EU logo and publishing inaccuracies.
Though the EU does allow commercial intermediaries to apply for ETIAS authorization on behalf of customers, these third-parties could be operated by scammers looking to misuse personal information required in the application.
To avoid any potential scams, travelers should prioritise applying through the official ETIAS website once it becomes available in 2024.