Amongst the key purposes behind the implementation of ETIAS for U.S. citizens lies the prevention and protection of public health for European nationals and residents as well as American visitors.
Disease transmission can be largely reduced thanks to the prescreening of visitors planning a trip to the European Union before they depart towards their final destination.
How Will ETIAS Contribute to Public Health?
Travelers holding a passport from a country adhered to the European Visa Waiver program, such as the U.S., are able to visit the European Schengen countries without having to apply for a visa.
Visitors from visa liberalization countries can currently enter the EU just by showing their passport at the Schengen borders. Therefore, authorities presently have no way of knowing the state of these passengers’ health nor whether they pose a health risk to the EU prior to their arrival.
With the launch of the ETIAS visa waiver at the end of 2022, an extra layer of protection will be added to fill this information gap. American travelers will maintain visa-free privileges but will have to apply for an ETIAS travel authorization prior to visiting the Schengen Area.
ETIAS Assesses EU Visitor’s Health Status
Part of the ETIAS application process —done via an online form that takes no more than 10 minutes to fill out— will include answering a series of simple questions regarding the traveler’s health.
Any contagious diseases which may pose a public health risk will have to be honestly disclosed while answering health questions on the ETIAS application for U.S. citizens.
Furthermore, the ETIAS application will require travelers to fill out their passport information and answer some questions related to their travel history.
This visitor data enables authorities to assess whether an applicant has previously spent any time in a high-risk area currently or recently experiencing an epidemic or outbreak of any contagious disease.
With this information, European authorities will be able to prevent the illegal entry into the EU of any travelers that may be considered a danger to public health. This, in turn, will enhance health security and protection in the Schengen member countries —a benefit to American visitors as well as locals.
According to the EU Regulation 2018/1240 of the European Parliament: “ETIAS should contribute to a high level of security, to the prevention of illegal immigration and to the protection of public health by providing an assessment of visitors prior to their arrival at the external border crossing points.”
In order to reduce pandemic threats, and to protect the health of its citizens, the EU may also introduce massive travel restrictions or temporary border closures to block out travelers from affected areas.
ETIAS U.S.: Schengen Border Entry and Health Security
ETIAS will be a mandatory entry requirement for U.S. citizens as well as travelers from visa waiver countries visiting the EU for short trips under 90 days’ duration, once it launches to the public. Nevertheless, having a valid ETIAS will not guarantee entry into the Schengen Area.
The final decision of whether a traveler holding a valid ETIAS travel authorization can enter Europe lies in the hands of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX).
FRONTEX retains the power to prevent passengers from entering Europe, even when they are in possession of an ETIAS authorization, should the agents have sufficient grounds to suspect the traveler poses a threat to the European nation.
All of these measures grant U.S. travelers visiting Europe increased security and health protection by reducing disease transmission through prescreening of passengers before their departure towards the EU.