Regardless of the amount of information doing the rounds ahead of its expected implementation in 2020, confusion persists around the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). Who will need the ETIAS and who will require a Schengen visa to travel in Europe? ETIAS is relevant to those travellers, like the Australians, who may currently enter Europe without a visa.
The Schengen visa remains necessary for those persons currently unable to enter European Union countries without a travel visa. The information to follow will explain the peculiarities of both ETIAS and the Schengen Visa.
ETIAS will impact citizens of Australia and 61 other countries outside of the EU who may currently travel to Europe without a visa. Entry currently requires only a valid passport and visitors provide authorities with only minimal background information. The ETIAS Europe process is intended to up travel security within the Schengen zone and Europe by providing such background information as is deemed pertinent.
Travellers apply for entry permission online before travelling to Europe. Personal information is provided including details of criminal records and previous visits to global conflict areas. The applications are checked through databases such as Interpol and Europol. Approved applications carry the ETIAS travel authorisation and are valid for 3 years or until the passport expires.
The Schengen Visa is required by citizens of those countries determined by the Schengen Agreement who are required to go through an application process before visiting Europe. Although the Schengen area and European Union are often confused, they are significantly different. The Schengen area comprises twenty-six countries, only four of which are not members of the European Union, and these are:
Six European Union member countries are not part of the Schengen area group, although Bulgaria and Romania are currently in the process of joining, and these are:
Passport holders from the Schengen area and European member states may move freely through these countries and Europe without travel authorisation or visas.
With the implementation of ETIAS in 2020, the citizens of the 62 countries who currently travel to Europe visa-free, will require either ETIAS authorisation or a Schengen Visa. Those visiting Europe with ETIAS authorisation will not need a Schengen Visa and vice-versa.
ETIAS will allow entry within the European Union but not the Schengen area if the passport holder is a member of a country outside of the EU. ETIAS authorisations are electronically linked to the passport.
A Schengen Visa allows travel within the 26 Schengen countries for a period of 90 days within 6 months of first entry. The visa permits entry to the country for which the visa was applied for and may not allow entry into other Schengen countries. Where more than one Schengen country will be visited, the visa must be applied for at the embassy for the country in which the traveller will spend the most time. The Schengen visa is manually incorporated into the passport.
The ETIAS Visa application is done online and takes about 20 minutes. The application requires basic information, the entry country applied for within Europe, and details of criminal record and conflict zones visited. The application, which must include the payment fee, is checked through databases and either rejected or accepted within minutes. In the event that a manual check is required, the process may take a few weeks.
Schengen Visas must be applied for in person at the embassy or consulate of the destination country, and the application is processed manually. The issuing of the visa could take 6 weeks or longer. To apply for a Schengen visa, ensure that:
- Two pages in the passport are blank for entry and exit stamps
- The passport is valid for three months after the expiry date of the visa
The passport must be valid until the expiration of the visa where the application is made for a long-stay residence permit.