When will the ETIAS be mandatory for travelers? What you need to know
The pandemic is slowly in decline and more people are traveling for tourism, business, and other purposes. Whether it’s a holiday to old favorites like Paris, Venice, or Berlin, or an up-and-coming destination, there is no doubt that travel is bouncing back to its pre-pandemic levels.
However, travelers who frequent Europe should keep in mind that the ETIAS will soon be required for anyone who wishes to enter a country in the Schengen Zone.
Here is everything you need to know about the ETIAS, including the basics and overview, when it will become mandatory, and how to apply for the ETIAS.
What is the ETIAS?
The ETIAS, which is officially known as the European Travel Information and Authorisation System, is a recent visa waiver program that was designed to improve the borders of the European Union by reviewing foreign visitors from visa-exempt countries.
The process is very quick and simple, and travelers will only need 15 minutes of their time to fill out the online application. Everything is done over the internet, and the approved ETIAS is sent to the applicant’s email address.
The ETIAS was originally conceptualized by the European Commission in 2016 and formally passed by July 2018.
There are many benefits to applying for an ETIAS.
Perhaps most importantly, it allows travelers to enter all 27 European Union member states, such as the Netherlands, Spain, France, Germany, and Italy, among others.
Likewise, four countries that are part of the Schengen Zone but not an EU state — Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein — will also be switching to the ETIAS program.
Finally, travelers will be able to visit countries that are in the European Union but not formally part of the Schengen yet, including Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Cyprus.
Besides the traveling aspect, holders of an ETIAS will be able to take advantage of faster queues at immigration control. Since the traveler has already been verified and their ETIAS is electronically linked to their passport, they will no longer need to interact with a border officer when entering a country.
Lastly, the ETIAS is very convenient for frequent jet setters. It is valid for 3 years from the date of issue, or until the holder’s passport expires (whichever comes first). Travelers whose passports will expire soon are encouraged to renew their travel documents first before applying for an ETIAS in order to make the most of it.
The ETIAS is good for a variety of different purposes, such as tourism, business, or simply transit between countries.
Finally, the ETIAS is a multiple-entry travel authorization and allows its holder to stay in participating countries for up to 90 days, within a 180-day limit.
When will the ETIAS be required?
The ETIAS was originally poised to be implemented in 2021, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was postponed multiple times.
The European Commission has officially confirmed that the ETIAS will be required for travelers starting in May 2023.
However, there is a silver lining: travelers have a ‘grace period’ of 6 months to apply for their ETIAS after it has been implemented. This means that the ETIAS will be mandatory in November 2023, giving travelers a few extra months to get their travel documents in order.
While there is a six-month grace period, it is still advised that travelers apply for their ETIAS as soon as they can in order to enjoy queue-free and stress-free travels.
How to apply for the ETIAS
While the ETIAS application is not live yet, travelers should familiarize themselves with the process ahead of time.
The online application can be accessed from any device with internet access (such as a smartphone, tablet, or computer), and should only take about 15 minutes to complete.
The first section will ask for the traveler’s personal information, including their first name and surname, date of birth, nationality, and contact information. There will also be a section to fill in the traveler’s passport serial number, date of issue, and date of expiration.
The second section will have a handful of yes/no questions pertaining to the applicant’s previous travels, health history, and criminal background.
After the form is complete and filled out, travelers will need to pay a small processing fee in order to submit their application for consideration. Afterward, the information on the application will be filtered through numerous international agencies, such as Interpol and Europol, in order to make sure that the applicant is suitable for entry.
For this reason, it is a good idea to go through the form and double-check and make sure all of the information on the application is correct and free of errors.
The processing time for an ETIAS is usually instantaneous, although in rare cases it may take a few business days (i.e. during peak tourist season).