You may have recently seen reports that non–European Union nationals will soon be required to obtain a visa before traveling to any E.U. country, but this is not entirely correct. Rather, travelers coming from abroad will be required to fill out a form and pay a small fee to the European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS, if they plan to visit any of the 26 European countries in the Schengen Area. So what exactly does that mean? Here’s everything you need to know about the new process.
So what exactly is ETIAS? The European Travel Information and Authorization System is an automated IT system that performs quick background checks on all applicants for security purposes.
How is it different from a visa? ETIAS is an online process that will let applicants know within minutes whether or not they've been approved. Unlike the visa process, you won't need to schedule an appointment at a consulate to fill out an application, no biometric data will be collected, and you'll have to provide significantly less information than you would to obtain a visa.
Got it. So who does the new ETIAS process apply to? Anyone coming from a country that previously allowed visa-free travel to the E.U., including the United States. The full list of countries (there are more than 60) can be found here.
How much will it cost? There will be a €7 fee, or about $8 USD, for all applicants between the ages of 18 and 70. There's no word yet on fees for travelers outside that age range, but if we had to guess, we'd think it's probably a safe bet to assume there will be some kind of child and senior citizen discount.
And when do we have to start worrying about this? Not until early 2021, although an exact start date has not yet been announced. The Delegation of the European Union to the United States has said they expect about 95 percent of applicants to be approved on the spot, but even for the 5 percent that run into issues, there are additional steps they can take to ultimately be approved.
Anything else we need to know? ETIAS status will last three years (meaning you can travel to and from and all around the E.U. worry-free during that time), but you will be required to show proof of approval at checkpoints (i.e., at border crossing points, before boarding a plane, at customs, etc.). Also, this process won’t apply to travel to and from the U.K.
Still have questions? This FAQ page and infographic from the Delegation of the European Union to the United States should fill you in on anything and everything you want to know about the ETIAS process.