What is the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS)?
How will ETIAS work in practice?
- What are the pre-travel expectations from visa-exempt travellers?
- What follows a refused travel authorisation from ETIAS?
- What is the period of validity of ETIAS travel authorisation?
- Do the Carriers have any obligations?
- What should be expected at the border crossing point?
- Can a travel authorisation be revoked?
Closing information gaps and enhancing security
ETIAS structure and development
What is ETIAS?
The ETIAS is an automated IT system intended to increase security and facilitate border crossings into the Schengen area. The European Commission proposed the system in 2016 to strengthen security checks on persons not requiring a visa to enter the EU. Nationals from over 60 countries currently fall into this criterion.
The system will identify security and migratory irregularities posed by visa-exempt travellers to Schengen countries while simplifying border crossings for the many risk-free travellers. All nationals from outside the EU not requiring a Schengen visa will need to apply through ETIAS before travelling to the Schengen area. Data gathered by ETIAS is intended to identify potential security or migration risks in advance while adhering to fundamental rights and data protection principles.
Applicants submit their completed form online. ETIAS will then perform security and border checks using EU databases, where after the travel authorisation will typically be given within minutes. The border guards will check this compulsory ETIAS travel authorisation together with the required travel documents at the European Union border prior to allowing entry into the Schengen area. This pre-condition for visa-exempt, non-EU passport holders should make for a smooth border check when entering the Schengen zone, minimising bureaucracy and travel delays. 3rd country nationals will be assessed in a coordinated manner, and entry refusals at the borders will be reduced significantly.
What is the difference between a Schengen visa and an ETIAS travel authorisation?
ETIAS is not the same as a Schengen Visa. Citizens currently exempt from requiring Schengen visas will still enjoy the same liberties but will have to obtain authorisation online through ETIAS before embarking on travel. ETIAS is a quick, simple and user-friendly system which will typically issue travel authorisation within minutes.
The ETIAS procedure has markedly different criteria and processing times to a visa application. Visits to the embassy, biometrics and supporting data are not required and the application process is authorised within minutes, rather than the typical 15 days or longer for a visa application. ETIAS authorisation is valid for 3 years for unlimited entries.
Visa-free travellers will maintain their status while enjoying a bureaucracy-free, efficient experience without delays when crossing a Schengen external border. The ETIAS travel authorisation is a simple albeit necessary procedure for the sake of safer travel.
What are the pre-travel expectations from visa-exempt travellers?
The completion of an online application is required, which should take less than 10 minutes, using either the dedicated website or a mobile app. Only a travel document is necessary, either a passport or the equivalent. Applications may be submitted by a third party where the applicant is unable to do so personally, due to literacy level, age or access to/ability to use technology.
Each applicant between the age of 18 and 70 must submit an electronic payment of the 7 Euro fee. Possible third country encumbrances will be considered as regards access to electronic payment methods and technological advancements.
Once the payment is confirmed, the automated assessment process commences. Approximately 95% of all applicants are expected to receive automated approval within minutes. In cases where an outcome is undecided, or the searched databases indicate a hit, the application will be handled manually. Manual processing is done by either a Member State team or a Central Unit in the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. The response time for the visa-exempt national from a 3rd country might then be extended by up to 96 hours. Very rarely will additional data be requested, or additional procedures be necessary, and a decision will nevertheless always be forthcoming within 4 weeks.
The majority of the small percentage of applications which do garner a hit will receive a positive decision once the data is verified by the ETIAS Central Unit. Only one or two percent of applications will require manual processing by ETIAS National Units. Once a decision has been made, applicants will receive either an emailed response and travel authorisation or the reasons for the refusal.
What follows a refused travel authorisation from ETIAS?
The applicant has a right to appeal if authorisation is refused. Details of the national authority responsible for the refusal will be provided to the applicant together with information regarding the appeal procedure. Appeals must be made in the Member state that made the decision and according to their national laws. Those applicants who feel their application has been unfairly treated, may request access to the data through the national authority or seek redress accordingly.
What is the period of validity of ETIAS travel authorisation?
ETIAS travel authorisation is valid for 3 years or until the travel document expires.
Do the Carriers have any obligations?
Air and sea carriers must verify travel documents and whether ETIAS travel authorisation is required for entry into the Schengen area. Carriers transporting groups by coach overland will enjoy a transition period during which they will not have to check for valid travel authorisation.
What should be expected at the border crossing point?
The border guard at the Schengen border crossing point will electronically check all travel documents. Databases will automatically check the data received when ETIAS checks visa-exempt citizens. The guard will refuse entry in the case of the absence of a valid ETIAS travel authorisation. The traveller’s details and the refusal of entry will be recorded in the Entry-Exit System.
The border control process will commence on presentation of a valid travel authorisation. Authorisation or refusal of entry into the Schengen area will be handed down, dependent on Schengen Border Code conditions being met.
Can a travel authorisation be revoked?
Travel authorisation can be cancelled or annulled if the conditions under which they were issued become invalid, although authorisation is otherwise valid for 3 years.
How will ETIAS sort out information gaps?
Information is currently sparse on those travellers crossing the EU borders without having to produce a visa. Conversely, information on Schengen visa holders can be validated by border guards using the Visa Information System (VIS). ETIAS will check all visitors before they present at the border posts, thereby doing away with the current gap in information. This pre-check before visa-free travellers arrive at the EU border posts, improves monitoring and recognition of possible security or migration risks.
How does ETIAS complement existing information systems for borders and security?
The Communication on Stronger and Smarter Information Systems for Borders and Security of 6 April 2016 calls for systems such as ETIAS to operate with existing and developing systems, such as the Entry-Exit System (EES).
ETIAS will reprocess the communication structure and hardware and software components used by EES wherever feasible. ETIAS will moreover collaborate with other information systems including the Visa Information System (VIS), Europol, Eurodac, the Schengen Information System (SIS) and the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS).
With which databases will ETIAS collaborate?
ETIAS will automatically verify visa-exempt applicants against:
Existing EU information systems:
- the Schengen Information System (SIS),
- the Visa Information System (VIS),
- Europol data,
- the Eurodac database
Proposed EU information systems:
- the Entry/Exit System (EES)
- the Interpol Stolen and Lost Travel Document database (SLTD),
- the Interpol Travel Documents Associated with Notices database (TDAWN)
Dedicated ETIAS watchlist/risk indicators.
ETIAS should be able to query ECRIS-TCN once the Commission has the approval to share criminal record data in the EU with 3rd-country nationals (ECRIS-TCNs).
How will the security of EU citizens improve with ETIAS?
ETIAS will narrow the security information gaps by sharing data on irregular migration, security and public health. The authorities in the Member States will be able to identify potential risks before they arrive at the Schengen’s external borders.
ETIAS will assist in exposing human trafficking (particularly of minors), cross-border misconduct and potential internal security risks within the Schengen zone. The data collected and stored in ETIAS can curtail terrorism and serious crimes through sharing with national law enforcement authorities and Europol. By so doing prevention, detection and investigations can be streamlined.
How will ETIAS safeguard respect for fundamental rights and data protection?
ETIAS complies with the highest standards of data protection, including all necessary safeguards in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Data access, in particular, is severely restricted. Individual rights to redress under the judiciary were taken into consideration during the proposal stage.
Personal data will only be retained in ETIAS for the period necessary for the system to fulfil its purpose, being:
- While the travel authorisation is valid or,
- Five years from the last refusal, revocation or annulment of the travel authorisation.
Where the explicit consent of the applicant is freely given, data may be retained for a period not exceeding 3 years after the period of validity. After expiry, both the personal data and the application file will automatically be deleted from the ETIAS Central System.
Law enforcement authorities of the Member States and Europol may request access to ETIAS only when they reasonably believe it will significantly assist in the performance of their duties. These duties include the prevention, detection or investigation of serious criminal and terrorist offences and access will be under strictly-defined circumstances only.
How will ETIAS be structured?
The ETIAS will encompass:
- The ETIAS Information System which consists of:
- Central System to process the applications;
- National Uniform Interface in each Member State which connects the Central System and the national infrastructures;
- Secure Communication Infrastructure between the Central System and the National Uniform Interfaces;
- Public website and a mobile app;
- Email service and tools for applicants, including account service, verification tool and consent option for data retention beyond the general period.
- The ETIAS Central Unit within the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. Operational 24/7, it will have four central tasks:
- Authenticating and updating recorded data;
- Verifying travel authorisation applications in case of a hit during the automated process;
- Defining, testing, implementing, evaluating and revising risk indicators of screening rules;
- Auditing management of applications and implementation of the ETIAS screening rules, particularly as regards impacting fundamental rights, privacy rules and data protection.
- ETIAS National Units in every Member State will conduct a risk assessment and authorise/refuse applications rejected by the automated process; provide details of procedure in the event of an appeal.
- ETIAS Screening Board composed of a representative of ETIAS National Unit, Europol and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. An advisory to define, evaluate and revise risk indicators & implement the ETIAS watchlist.
Fundamental Rights Guidance Board advisory body composed of representatives from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, the European Data Protection Supervisor, the European Data Protection Board and the Fundamental Rights Agency, assess the impact on fundamental rights and guide the ETIAS Screening Board.
What is the ETIAS watchlist?
The ETIAS watchlist is among the EU databases against which applicants’ data is cross-checked upon application. The watchlist contains information from the Member States and Europol. The list relates to suspects in serious criminal offences or on whom proof or reasonable grounds exist to suspect terrorism or serious criminal offences.
What will Europol’s role be?
Europol is able to correlate information not available in EU databases or to the Member States. Together with the Member States, it will enter and update data in the ETIAS watchlist. It will also take part in the definition of ETIAS screening rules.
Europol will assist ETIAS National Units when a hit occurs during the automated process.
What role will eu-LISA play?
As the European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT Systems involving freedom, security and justice, it will develop and safeguard the technical management of the ETIAS Information System. It will create the public website and mobile app where applicants can check the status of their ETIAS applications.
What are the development costs associated with ETIAS?
ETIAs will build on existing and yet-to-be-developed systems such as Entry/Exit System (EES). By developing and implementing EES and ETIAS together, the operational and set-up costs will be significantly less. Fee revenue should cover annual operations costs, rendering ETIAS financially self-sustaining.
Development costs for ETIAS are around €212.1 million, with annual operations costs averaging €85 million. ETIAS will be financially self-sustaining since annual operations costs will be covered by the fee revenue.
What is ETIAS’s territorial scope?
ETIAS regulations apply to the Member States within the Schengen area, also embracing those not yet fully incorporating the Schengen acquis, namely Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania.
When will ETIAS be implemented?
ETIAS should be rolled out in 2021, after three years of development.