Motivation Behind the European Visa Waiver and Electronic Travel Authorisation System

Australians travelling to Europe do not need a visa because they are citizens of an eligible country. The European Commission who devises rules for the 28 EU-member countries has decided that these citizens should apply online for travel authorisation before travelling to Europe. Personal information and the reasons for wanting to travel to the Schengen-EU area should be provided online using this particular application portal.

What the EU Commission has set in motion is the implementation of a European Travel and Information Authorisation System named ETIAS. This European visa waiver is similar in objective and style to those already in use in Australia, Canada and the U.S.

The following information is intended to educate interested parties on ETIAS:

about etias
about etias

Australians travelling to Europe do not need a visa because they are citizens of an eligible country. The European Commission who devises rules for the 28 EU-member countries has decided that these citizens should apply online for travel authorisation before travelling to Europe. Personal information and the reasons for wanting to travel to the Schengen-EU area should be provided online using this particular application portal.

What the EU Commission has set in motion is the implementation of a European Travel and Information Authorisation System named ETIAS. This European visa waiver is similar in objective and style to those already in use in Australia, Canada and the U.S.

The following information is intended to educate interested parties on ETIAS:

The Schengen zone

The Schengen zone within Europe is grouped into three different country categories, the citizens of which all enjoy the same freedom of movement and immigration rules. These Schengen countries are regarded as the same as the European Union countries, except that some are not EU members. Some EU countries also fall outside of the Schengen zone.

Group 1 comprises EU and Schengen nationals who may freely visit or work and live in the other member countries without restrictions.

Group 2 includes Australian nationals who will be affected by ETIAS and who will need to obtain the visa waiver. Citizens from these non-European countries do not currently require a visa to visit Europe for tourism and business purposes for less than 90 days. Citizens in this group may neither work or study in a Schengen country without a visa nor remain living there for longer than 90 consecutive days.

Group 3 are nationals from non-European countries who must hold a visa to enter Europe. These countries may have weak economic or cultural ties with the European Union or are typically less affluent third world countries.

Motivation behind ETIAS

Basically, the European Commission has taken the fluctuation in the number of visitors and their reasons for entering Europe as motivation for implementing this pre-authorisation system. ETIAS will monitor potential visitors, up to European security and discourage criminal and terrorist elements.

Four principal reasons behind the implementation are:

  1. Increased influx of visitors to Europe which currently stands at 50 million individuals and in excess of 200 million entries.
  2. Recent increase in number of refugees and asylum-seekers due inter alia to war, persecution and perceived economic benefits.
  3. Increase in disturbing and unsettling terrorist activity, notably in France, Germany, Belgium and Spain.
  4. Improved feasibility of an Electronic pre-travel authorisation due to electronic and technological advances and the popularity of the Internet among global travellers. Information useful to European border and security personnel is now easily obtainable using these advances in communication.

Similarities Between ETIAS and existing Electronic Authorisation Systems

ETIAS is not a new concept. Several countries already require that travellers apply for pre-travel authorisation online by utilising electronic authorisation systems.

Australia has had eTA in place since 1996. The eVistor and electronic travel authority was intended to streamline the processing of visas for the great number of tourists wanting to enter Australia.

The United States has used ESTA since 2007, as a visa-waiver system to process nationals from those countries deemed of low-risk to US security.

Canada’s eTA is relatively new in operation and similar to the U.S.’s system.

How Europe will use the Information obtained from ETIAS

ETIAS is not intended to replace the security process currently in place at the Schengen external or ‘Smart Borders.’ ETIAS will instead screen those visa-exempt visitors before they present at the border control points. Information gained through this process will be shared with the Schengen borders, police and security authorities, and aims to largely obstruct criminal and terrorist activity in Europe.

The system at present allows for gathering of such information only at the border posts. Australians and nationals who do not currently need a travel visa will still have to comply with the border restrictions and constraints on entry. Requirements include presenting valid travel documents and providing reasons for the visit and proof of sufficient funds for the duration of the stay.

Travellers requiring a Schengen visa are not subject to the ETIAS. They will have submitted all the necessary information pertinent to their visit during their visa application process before arriving in Europe.

While ETIAS is still being developed, it is expected to be implemented in 2020.

How ETIAS and Schengen Visas differ

Introduction

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:

Ireland flag Ireland

United Kingdom flag United Kingdom

Passport holders from the Schengen area and European member states may move freely through these countries and Europe without travel authorisation or visas.

ETIAS versus Schengen Visa

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.

ETIAS Benefits

Applying for ETIAS or Schengen Visa

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.