ETIAS was introduced by the European Commission with the aim of providing visa-free travel into some select European countries after passing some basic screenings and background checks. It was a reaction to concerns about security risks potentially posed by visitors to the European Union Schengen Zone countries who travel visa-free. The Schengen Zone comprises of 26 countries, most of which make up the European Union with the United Kingdom and Ireland being the main two countries not taking part in the ETIAS program. It is expected to take effect in late 2022 or 2023.
What is the meaning of ETIAS?
The acronym ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System which is a system designed by the European Commission (EC) to address security concerns in Schengen countries particularly with the reality of the millions of travelers and tourists who troop into these countries every year without visas.
The ETIAS process is aimed at identifying citizens of countries who are allowed to travel to Europe visa-free and ensures that they undergo the authorization process before leaving their countries. The ETIAS approval, once obtained, lasts for a period of 3 years and stays valid covering over 60 countries whose citizens can travel visa-free into the Schengen Zone. Read more information of ETIAS for travel to Europe in the next paragraphs.
Is ETIAS a Visa Restriction Process?
It is important to note that the ETIAS screening process does not operate as a restriction on travelers into Europe neither is it a potential restriction on human movement but is aimed at ensuring greater security with respect to the people who come into the Schengen Zone and to ensure that suspicious terrorist elements are fished out before they can do any damage within the zone.
What countries operate the ETIAS?
At present, there are 26 countries that make up the Schengen Zone and which are included in the ETIAS system. These countries include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
In addition to the above countries, there are microstates also included in the Schengen Area such as the Vatican, San Marino and Monaca.
Presently, there are countries which have applied to join the Schengen Zone and whose applications are currently pending for approval. These include: Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria and Cyprus.
Countries not in ETIAS.
Presently, Ireland as well as the United Kingdom are not a part of the ETIAS process.
How you can apply for ETIAS registration.
The registration process for ETIAS is carried out completely online and during the process, the applicant is asked security questions aimed at obtaining basic biographical data and relevant background information. Proof of valid ID Card is required as well in addition to your Passport, Credit Card, email addresses and other relevant data aimed at applicant identification and verification.
The next step is for the system to transfer your data to the several countries currently operating the ETIAS who will run it through their various security systems to ensure that you’re not wanted for criminal activity, have no links to terrorist or other illegal activities and do not pose a security risk to their countries upon visit.
Registration process typically takes between a few minutes to a few days to be concluded and where approval is given, it is valid for 3 years before you need to undergo this process again.