The new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) will come into full effect starting from 2021. From that moment, American citizens will be required to obtain a visa waiver for Europe before traveling to the old continent.
The same rule will apply to all passport holders who can currently visit Europe visa-free. It may be understandable then to wonder why is the new electronic system being implemented and what exactly are the benefits of ETIAS.
It’s clear that the world of traveling is changing: the number of travelers crossing borders every day is increasing worldwide. Buying a plane ticket and reaching a neighboring country is now easier (and more affordable) than ever.
The EU and many other institutions around the world are implementing new strategies and taking advantage of new technologies to keep up with tourism and migration volumes and keep the borders safe.
However, increased security is not the only result expected of the new ETIAS system — the European authorities hope that there will be a positive impact for both the EU and foreign travelers. This informative page is intended to help travelers understand why they will be required to apply for ETIAS and how it will benefit them.
Why ETIAS? Benefits for the EU
Safety and security for the population living within the Schengen area are at the very heart of ETIAS. The new electronic system is not a visa. If you enjoy visa-free status for the Schengen area, you will continue to do so after 2021 and your freedom of movement rights will not be affected.
ETIAS Will Strengthen Border Security for Europe
Unlike traditional visas, the ETIAS visa waiver is an automated screening process that will ensure better control over the borders between Schengen and non-Schengen territories, and not limit one’s freedom of movement. The European authorities will be able to see who’s entering the Schengen area and when.
Moreover, although quick and easy, the ETIAS application requires foreign nationals to register with the online visa waiver system before traveling, giving a better chance for the European border check institutions to be prepared to respond to the increasing demand brought about by high tourism volumes.
How New Technology Makes ETIAS Effective
The electronic system also presents multiple advantages thanks to the newest technologies. The digitalization of traveler data, for example, will make it easier for police forces and European authorities to communicate effectively across Schengen member countries to optimize the joint efforts against terrorism, identity theft, and illegal immigration.
The information accurately collected thanks to ETIAS and other new security programs like EES (Entry/Exit System) will, therefore, play an important role in the fight against international crime.
Like all information collected by the EU-Lisa, the European agency for the management of security data, ETIAS and EES data will be encrypted and stored securely and will only be accessible to authorized personnel like border control and migration officers.
Moreover, systems like ETIAS and EES will allow travelers to use automated gates at the airport as long as they hold an electronic chipped passport. This will noticeably reduce the number of passport check officers needed at Schengen entry points.
Finally, even though ETIAS is a new registration process, Schengen embassies and consulates will not experience a heavier workload since travelers can easily register with ETIAS online from the comfort of their home or office.
ETIAS for Travelers: Benefits of the New Visa Waiver for Foreign Nationals
Although registering with ETIAS is one more step that Americans and other eligible nationals will need to take before getting on their plane to Europe, there are several benefits for non-EU citizens.
Shorter Waiting Times at Passport Control
As mentioned above, the European institutions count on employing an increased number of smart passport gates at their international airports and seaports. This means that if you hold a valid ETIAS visa waiver and an electronic passport, you will not need to queue at the European immigration and passport check desk and won’t need to see a border control officer to approve your entry.
Simply follow the signs for the electronic passport control, scan your ID and look at the camera for facial recognition, and you’ll be able to begin your European holiday. Should you encounter any issues, border control officers will be nearby and able to help.
Get Your ETIAS Entirely Online
Since ETIAS is not a visa but a visa waiver registration process, it’s designed to be quick and easy to obtain. You won’t need to go see a Schengen immigration office, consulate, or embassy in your home country and you should be able to access all the information you need online.
Better yet, you won’t need to be in your home country at all: ETIAS can be applied for from anywhere in the world before leaving for Schengen. All you’ll need is a reliable internet connection and a device that can go online.
If you have your supporting documents at hand (i.e. your passport and a credit or debit card to pay for the ETIAS fee) you’ll be done in a matter of minutes.
Reliable Information to for Hassle-Free Travels
ETIAS and other automated border control measures will not only provide useful information to European law enforcement but also to travelers. ETIAS allows U.S. citizens to visit the Schengen area for multiple short-term stays of up to 90 days. However, the visa waiver in itself is valid for 3 years.
In other words, you will need to apply for ETIAS just once every three years but cannot stay in Europe for longer than 90 consecutive days. This may be confusing for some ETIAS holders who wish or need to travel to Europe repeatedly and often.
However, it is of extreme importance that you comply with the terms of your ETIAS visa waiver. Overstaying your visa or other forms of infraction would go directly against European immigration and visa policies, effectively breaking the local laws. This may have serious consequences, including fines, the impossibility to apply for ETIAS in the future, and more.
The digital automated system is likely to be able to assist you in giving reliable information on your ETIAS status including, for example, the length of your permitted stay.
ETIAS Pros & Cons for American Travelers
It is certain that American citizens are among the travelers who will be required to obtain an ETIAS visa waiver in order to be granted entry into Europe starting from 2021. In order to help you understand the process better and make an informed decision regarding your travel plans, you can find below some pros and cons of the new ETIAS system.
Pros of the ETIAS visa waiver for Europe
- Short processing times (days or even hours)
- Simple and quick application completed in minutes
- Entirely online: no need to go to an embassy
- Eliminates airport queues
- Increased security in Europe for everyone
- Free movement within the Schengen area
Cons of ETIAS vis waiver for Europe
- Application fees apply
- Must be applied for before traveling
- If the passport expires before ETIAS, a new ETIAS must be applied for