The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is a visa waiver program for international travelers from European countries. It will come into effect at the end of 2023.

When looking for the requirements to travel to Spain -or any other country in Europe-, there is one word that pops up in any search: ETIAS. Those five letters, ETIAS, stand for European Travel Information and Authorization System. This is a new visa waiver program for travelers that, from the end of 2023, will be implemented by numerous European countries.

In this article we will try to explain what exactly this new electronic system for travel authorization to Europe is, which countries it will affect, when it will come into force and how to apply for it.

What is ETIAS?

The European Travel Information and Authorization System is a new electronic method for authorizing travel to Schengen countries, an evolution of migration policy and border security in Europe. With its implementation, citizens of many countries will have to complete a short online procedure to be allowed to travel to Schengen, whether for business, leisure, health or any other reason.

Until now, many states have been able to allow their citizens to enter Europe without a visa or any other formality - Venezuela, Brazil, or the U.S., for example - but from the date that ETIAS becomes mandatory, these same individuals will have to apply for a visa waiver through this system as one of the requirements for travel to Europe.

For their part, nationals of countries that previously required a visa will not see their status changed by the implementation of ETIAS. They will have to continue to apply for one of the various visas available (1) from the date on which ETIAS becomes mandatory.

The ETIAS is the Schengen counterpart of other visa waiver programs, such as the ESTA in the United States, or the respective programs applied by Great Britain, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. The idea was first proposed to the European Commission in 2016, and became part of the European regulation in September 2018.

When will ETIAS enter into force?

Everything seems to indicate that the ETIAS would come into force at the end of 2022, but its launch has been extended by 6 months, until November 2023.

However, although its use will be recommended from that moment onwards, the governing bodies of the Schengen Area will give a period of six months for travelers and border managers to adapt to the new system. To this end, information posts will be set up at European borders to inform third-country nationals about the change in the requirements for traveling to Europe.

Although it is not mandatory to apply during the transitional period, the EU encourages travelers to register for ETIAS. Thereafter, ETIAS will be valid for three years, during which time you will be able to travel freely within the Schengen Area, provided your passport is valid.

Which countries are part of ETIAS?

The countries that will apply ETIAS to their border control processes can be divided into three different groups:

  • The states that are part of the Schengen Agreement: i.e. 22 EU member states plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
  • The four EU member states that are obliged to join Schengen in the future: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania and Croatia.
  • The micro-states that are de facto members: Andorra, San Marino, Monaco and the Vatican City.

The complete list of countries to which ETIAS will apply in 2022 can be consulted here.

Which countries are affected by ETIAS?

ETIAS, this new electronic system for travel authorization, will be part of the requirements to travel to Spain -and to all the countries mentioned above- if you are a citizen of the group of countries that are part of the visa waiver program.

Whether or not a state is part of this group depends, to a large extent, on its stability or political and social power -the case of the USA, Canada, or Japan-, its geographical proximity to the EU -Great Britain-, or its cultural ties. For example, from the Spanish point of view, it is worth noting that there are 15 states in the Ibero-American world that will have access to ETIAS. Namely:

  • Argentina.
  • Brazil.
  • Chile.
  • Colombia.
  • Guatemala.
  • Honduras.
  • Mexico.
  • Nicaragua.
  • Panama.
  • Paraguay.
  • Peru.
  • Uruguay.
  • Venezuela.

In any case, this group will not be closed, and membership will be reviewable. Vanuatu's membership was temporarily suspended in 2022 for migration reasons. 

How do I apply for ETIAS?

This new electronic system for travel authorization can be requested from the last months of 2022, and the process to do so will be very simple. Everything will be carried out through an official website that European organizations will make available to anyone interested in traveling to the Schengen Area, without the need to visit any embassy or consulate.

The information that will need to be submitted on this website can be completed in a matter of minutes, and in most cases the response will be immediate. Only in specific events, in which the system has to check different databases, the response to the procedure may take up to a maximum of 30 days.

How much does it cost and what is the duration of the ETIAS?

This new requirement to travel to Europe will be priced at 7 euros for all those between 18 and 70 years of age. This fee will finance the entire ETIAS system.

The duration of the visa exemption permit will be three years, so that stays of a maximum of three months can be made during that period.

Can an ETIAS application be denied?

The answer is yes, but only in very exceptional cases. According to the European Commission's own data, 95% of the cases are expected to receive a positive response within minutes. Of the remaining 5%, it is estimated that 3-4% of the applications will be accepted after passing through the ETIAS Central Unit.

Thus, there will only be 1-2% of ETIAS applications that will have to be manually checked by the National Units, which will be responsible for issuing a response by e-mail.

Which authority will be in charge of ETIAS?

The European authorities involved in the management of ETIAS will be several:

  • ETIAS Central Unit.
  • ETIAS National Units.
  • Europol.
  • Eu-LISA.
  • European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex).
  • ETIAS Management Board.
  • ETIAS Fundamental Rights Monitoring Board.

ETIAS Objectives?

As in the case of the U.S. ESTA and other electronic travel authorization systems, the objective of ETIAS is twofold. On the one hand, to speed up the entry into the EU of citizens from many countries with a certain link to the Union. On the other hand, to increase surveillance and security at the borders of the Schengen area.

Conclusion

The main point to be made about ETIAS is that the EU has taken an important step in the same direction as the USA, Great Britain and Australia. Namely: streamlining procedures for foreign nationals through an electronic system for travel authorization, all while increasing border security.

It remains to be seen what the results will be after the first months of implementation, but everything points to this being good news, and not only for European citizens. Nationals of the 15 Ibero-American countries that are part of the ETIAS group should also be in luck from the end of 2023. Their entry, although now requiring a small process, will be much more secure.

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