ETIAS means European Travel Information and Authorisation System. This is an automated IT system proposed by the European Commission in order to strengthen the security and control irregular migratory risks posed by those persons who travel visa-free to the EU. In addition, it will ease the process of crossing borders for the vast majority of travellers who do not pose such risks. Therefore, every non-EU national who wants to travel to the Schengen area will have to apply through the ETIAS system before taking its trip.
To apply for this travel authorisation, you will need to fill an online application form. After doing that, the system will conduct some checks and then it will issue a travel authorisation within minutes. This will ease border checks and avoid bureaucracy and delays for travellers at the EU borders, as well as reducing the risk of irregular migration from third-country nationals and reducing the number of refusals at border crossing points.
It is better to specify that ETIAS Authorisation is not a visa like the Schengen visa and the process to obtain it is much quicker and simpler. In fact, you don’t need to go to a consulate to make an application or undergo any biometric data collected, but by filling an online application you will have your authorisation ready in a few minutes. Its validity is three years, a much longer time compared to the Schengen visa. Moreover, it will be valid for an unlimited number of entries.
We should consider also that visa liberalisation can help to build a partnership with third countries and increasing EU business and tourism. Verifying and assessing potential security or irregular immigration risks related to visa-exempt travellers before their entry in the EU through ETIAS and in respect of their visa-free status, is an important tool to safeguard and complement the success of the EU’s visa liberalisation policy. By doing this, we will also strengthen the security and safety within the Schengen area.
To obtain your travel authorisation you will have to fill an online application through a website or an app for mobile devices, providing as documentation only a travel document (passport or other equivalent documents). For each application is required payment of 7 Euro fee. In case of inability to apply because of age, competence on information technology, etc, a third person can submit your application.
After you have done the payment, the automated assessment process will start and, in the majority of cases, you will receive the approval within minutes. If there is any problem or undecided outcome of the automated process, your application will be sent to a Central Unit in the European Border and Coast Guard Agency or a Member State team. If this happens, the response time for the approval of your application will prolong up to 96 hours. Only in very exceptional circumstances, it may be required for you to provide further information and further procedural steps may be necessary. However, in all cases, a final decision on your application will be taken within four weeks. After the decision is taken, applicants will receive an email with a valid travel authorisation, or a justification whether your application is rejected.
In case of rejection, don’t panic! You will have the right to appeal. You must do that in the Member State where the decision on your application was taken and in accordance with the national law of said State. After that, you will receive a communication informing you about the national authority responsible for the processing and decision on your travel authorisation and the procedure they will follow. Furthermore, if a traveller considers his/her treatment unfair can have the right to seek redress and access to information through the national authority.
So, once you get your authorisation and you arrive in one of the Schengen area border crossing points, the border guard will check electronically your travel document data, accessing different databases, including ETIAS’s in case of visa-exempt travellers. If your travel authorisation is valid, a border control process is conducted and you obtain the authorisation to enter the Schengen area. On the contrary, if you don’t fulfill the conditions required, the border guards will refuse your entry and record you and your refusal of entry in the Entry-Exit System.
Your travel authorisation can be revoked or annulled when you no longer meet the necessary requirements to apply for it.
Air and sea carriers and carriers transporting groups overland by coach will have to verify the status of the travel document before boarding, as well as the requirement to hold a valid ETIAS travel authorisation. There will be a transitional period for carriers transporting groups overland by the coach during which they won’t need to check the presence of valid travel authorisation.
Considering that border and law enforcement authorities have little information on who cross the EU borders visa-free, apart from people that have a Schengen visa, whose information is recorded in the Visa Information System, ETIAS can close an important information gap. By ensuring that all travellers are checked prior to their arrival, it will help identify potential security or irregular migration risks before visa-free travellers arrive in the EU, as well as monitoring people who cross the EU borders. By providing vital information on security, irregular migration and public health, the system will enhance the detection of human trafficking, tackle cross border criminality and facilitate the identification of persons in the Schengen area which could be an internal security threat. This data may also be made available to national law enforcement authorities and Europol if necessary for the prevention, detection or investigation of a terrorist offence, or other serious criminal offences, respecting fundamental rights and data protection.
Data protection and respect of fundamental rights are guaranteed by the fact that ETIAS is in line with the highest standards of data protection and that personal data will not be kept for longer than it is necessary. They are stored for the period of validity of the travel authorisation or five years from the last decision to refuse, revoke or annul the travel authorisation. Data will be kept for an additional period of three years, only if applicants choose freely to keep their data stored.
ETIAS is designed to be interoperable with existing systems, and systems currently being developed, such as the Entry-Exit System (EES). Therefore, the ETIAS will reuse the hardware and software components of the EES and its communication infrastructure. Interoperability will also be established with the other information systems to be consulted by ETIAS such as the Visa Information System (VIS), Europol data, the Schengen Information System (SIS), Eurodac and the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS).
There will be also an ETIAS watchlist. This will consist of data related to person who is suspected of having committed or taken part in a serious criminal offence or person on which there are indications or responsible grounds to believe that they will commit terrorist or other serious criminal offences. It will be created on the basis of information provided by the Member States and Europol.
ETIAS is expected to enter into force after three years of development, i. e. in 2021. As we said, in order to be efficient, it will be created on the basis of the existing information system and together with those that are still to be developed (i.e. Entry/Exit System (EES)). The cost for developing ETIAS is estimated at Euro 212, 1 million and the average annual operations cost at Euro 85 million. It will be financially self-sustaining, as the annual operations costs will be covered by the fee revenue.
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