What is ETIAS and how it affects you?

Today, more than 30 million people travel to Europe for business or tourism without a visa. They come from 60 countries who have been given visa-free access to the Schengen Zone.

This is going to change in 2021.

Starting January 1st, 2021, non-EU citizens will need an ETIAS visa waiver to enter European countries and travel around the Schengen Zone. The new screening rules will affect travellers from many countries, including the USA, Canada and New Zealand.

So if you are doing business with countries within the Schengen area or are planning a journey after 2021, read our ETIAS guide to find out:


What is ETIAS?

ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System. It is not a Visa. It is an electronic system created with two goals in mind:

  • To improve border management and security in the EU, i.e. make EU travel safer;
  • To reduce the waiting time and make more effective the screening procedures for travellers.

How will this electronic system improve border control?

It will do so by keeping track of visa-free travellers to the Schengen zone. In 2016 European Commission (EC) president voiced a common concern: the EU needs to know who is crossing its borders. Then the EC came up with a solution: ETIAS. This additional layer of preliminary screening will strengthen further the external border of the European Union.

How will screening become faster and more effective?

Application is done online. Then the electronic system will verify information and do cross-checks with other databases before issuing approval. Being electronic, the whole process is expected to be very fast.


Who will need an ETIAS?

Visitors to the Schengen Zone who have the right to travel for business or tourism without a visa will need to apply for this preliminary screening and authorisation.

62 countries have been granted the right to visit the EU and Schengen member countries without a visa. Such visits are limited to 90 days and allow citizens to travel to or around the Schengen area for business or tourism. They are not allowed to study or work there however.

Visa-exempt countries include Argentina, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, SIngapore, United Arab Emirates, and the United States of America. You can find the full list at www.schengenvisainfo.com.

Which countries require ETIAS?

The electronic authorisation system issues approval for access to Schengen countries for non-EU citizens.

Here’s a brief review of the border-free history of Europe. The Schengen agreement was initially signed in 1985 between 5 countries to effectively abolish border checks for travellers between them. Later on, many more joined and today the Schengen Zone includes a total of 26 European countries.

European countries in the Schengen Zone

Austria Liechtenstein
Belgium Lithuania
Czech Republic Luxembourg
Denmark Malta
Estonia Netherlands
Finland Norway
France Poland
Germany Portugal
Greece Slovakia
Hungary Slovenia
Iceland Spain
Italy Sweden
Latvia Switzerland

The list of member states includes popular tourist destinations like France, Italy, Germany, etc. So if you are a citizen of the countries who have the right to travel visa-free to the Schengen area and are travelling to one of the above, you need to apply for the electronic authorisation.


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How do you apply for an ETIAS?

The process seems to be quite simple. ETIAS applications are submitted online. Applicants fill in a form with their biometric data and travel info, pay a tax, their application is processed automatically and they receive a response.

All you need is an electronic device and internet access. And you will also need to plan a bit ahead and apply a few days before travelling. Mind that once issued, the authorisation is valid for 3 years and it gives you the right to unlimited entries in Schengen member countries within a 90-day period.

Note that once you get the approval, your ETIAS authorisation will be checked by your cruise operator or airline. Then, upon arrival, it will be reviewed by border officials who have the authority to make the final decision whether to grant you entry.

When filling the online form, applicants will be required to provide their biometric data, such as:

  • Full name
  • Place of birth
  • Gender
  • Nationality

You will also need to fill in your email/ phone number, plus valid passport details. Payment is done via debit or credit card. Additional background information will include some questions about the traveller’s medical condition and criminal record. All of this should take about 10 minutes.

Note that you will also be required to specify the Schengen country you are going to enter. This means that if you fill in ‘Germany’ as your first point of entry in the EU, and then change your plans try to enter the Zone through France, your authorisation will not be valid.


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FAQ Section

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How long does the ETIAS process take?

The application process is supposed to take about 10 minutes. Once you enter your details and submit your application, your data will be checked across various databases, such as for example Europol. They will verify your information, your eligibility and risk factors within minutes.

If all is fine and you meet the ETIAS requirements, you will soon get your authorisation. However, if the electronic system gets a hit, your application will be processed manually. This is expected to take between 4 and 14 days.


How much does it cost?

The authorisation process will not cost you too much. The planned tax for citizens aged above 18 is only 7. Infants and children under 18 will be charged no fee.

You can pay your tax via a debit or credit card. Once your fee is paid, the electronic system will start processing your application.


How long is the ETIAS valid?

Once you get the approval, your authorisation will be valid for 3 years or until the end of validity of the travel document you used during the application. Within these 3 years you can enter any country in the Schengen Zone, as many times as you’d like. Remember however  that your visit cannot exceed 90 days within a consecutive 180-day period.


Do children need an ETIAS?

If you are travelling with your family, you should know that every traveller, including children, has to present travel authorization upon arrival in Schengen. People under the age of 18 are exempt from fees. Naturally, parents need to complete the application process.


How many times can I enter the EU with an ETIAS?

As stated above, once you get approved, the electronic authorisation gives you the right to an unlimited number of entries into Schengen countries. Simply remember that your first country of entry has to be the one stated in the application. From there on, you can travel around the other member states in the Zone for a maximum of 90 days.


What is the difference between ETIAS and ESTA?

ETIAS was created following the American example, i.e. ESTA.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) was created in the USA as a visa waiver program. It affects all passengers entering the USA via air or sea. Under its requirements these travellers need to apply for a travel authorization through the online system ESTA at least 72 hour before travelling. After an application is submitted, the system checks every passenger against various terrorist and/or no-fly lists and databases. 

ETIAS works in a similar way however it pre-screens passengers travelling visa-free to the Schengen Zone (and not the USA).


What is the difference between an ETIAS and a visa?

ETIAS is not a visa but a pre-screening and authorisation for people who do not need a Schengen visa. Applying for this authorisation will be done online (you do not need to go to a consulate). Also, ETIAS requires less background information and the process is much faster.


What if your ETIAS is denied?

The electronic travel authorisation system checks all passengers against various databases from agencies such as Europol, Interpol, Schengen Information System (SIS), Visa Information System (VIS), etc. A watchlist will also be created on the basis of data provided by Member States and Europol.

If a name gets flagged during this checking process or if the information provided by the passenger is deemed fraudulent, the application will be rejected. In such a case, the passenger will be notified about the justification for the refusal. Applicants always have the right to appeal.


When does ETIAS go into effect?

If you are planning a trip within the Schengen Zone after January 2021, you will need to apply for an ETIAS before departure.


Now that you know more about ETIAS and how it affects your travelling plans, we hope you feel well prepared. You should certainly feel safer and expect more efficient security screening in Europe. 

Happy travels!