The ETIAS program, already partly in effect, affects all those planning to travel to Europe. The Schengen authorities are using new strategies and technologies such as ETIAS to make the region safer for tourists and residents alike.
Who Are The Schengen Authorities and Where is Schengen?
Hint: Schengen is not a new country.
If you haven’t heard, Schengen is a treaty among member countries of what’s called the Schengen Zone. The Schengen Agreement and region are named after the town in Luxembourg where the agreement was signed. Since 1985, it has allowed people and goods to pass freely across the borders of each country without passport or other controls. The Schengen Zone is great news for travelers.
Now it encompasses almost all EU Member States and a few associated non-EU countries — about 27 countries in total. Although internal borders are gone, external border controls have been tightened. You can see the complete list of Schengen countries as of August 2023 on the map below.
What is ETIAS and How Will it Affect Travel to Europe?
One of the Schengen strategies for keeping the region safer for tourists and residents is the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). Also known as ETIAS, authorities expect to fully implement it — after several delays — by May 2025. The current postponement is being blamed on the delayed launch of another border security measure, Entry/Exit System or EES.
The new visa waiver program applies to citizens of countries that currently do not require a visa to enter the Schengen area (like citizens of Canada and the United States.) In total, about 60 nationalities are included in the program. This means that if you come from an eligible nation and are planning to travel to Europe in 2025, you will need to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver.
Keep reading to find more ETIAS information here, including:
- What ETIAS is and how it will work
- What are the benefits of ETIAS for Europeans and foreign travelers
- How ETIAS will affect traveling with your family to Europe.
How Does the ETIAS Program Work?
There are many nationalities that are allowed into the Schengen territory without a visa. The ETIAS program is an electronic visa waiver that will allow eligible foreign citizens to register before traveling to Europe.
ETIAS is not a visa. This means that if you’re currently able to enter Europe without a visa, you will not lose your visa-free status starting in 2024. However, ETIAS will be mandatory. You will need to register with the system and obtain the visa waiver before arriving at the border. Keep in mind that a similar travel authorization system is already in place in the US, Canada and Australia for foreign visitors from visa-exempt nations.
Fortunately, the ETIAS application will be completed entirely online. You won’t need to see a travel agent or visit a European embassy. You can submit the form and relevant documents (like copies of your passport) from anywhere in the world as long as you have access to a reliable internet connection.
Who Needs At ETIAS Visa?
Once visitors have an ETIAS visa waiver, they will be able to visit Europe for up to 90 days for tourism and business purposes. You will only need one ETIAS in order to visit all Schengen countries. You can leave and return with the same ETIAS visa for three years or until your passport expires.
Students who plan to study abroad in Europe for more than 90 days need a student visa from their destination country. Most study abroad programs will provide assistance in obtaining one. Apply for an ETIAS travel authorization if you’re studying for less than 90 days by contacting the consulate of the country you intend to study in.
Why Is ETIAS Coming into Effect for Travel to Europe?
Even though the application is easy and quick to complete, you may be wondering about the point of introducing one more bureaucratic step for travelers who are now able to visit Europe visa-free.
The ETIAS system and the new technologies used by the program will benefit Europe and its foreign visitors in several ways.
ETIAS Will Strengthen Border Security for Europe
Safety and security within the Schengen Zone is the number 1 reason for the existence of ETIAS.
Thanks to the new system, the European authorities will be able to see who’s entering Europe and when, ensuring better control over the borders between Schengen and non-Schengen countries.
The exchange of information between Schengen countries will give European law enforcement relevant, real-time data that will assist them in fighting terrorism and international crime and have better control over illegal immigration.
And since foreigners will be required to register with the program prior to departure, ETIAS will also allow European border control to respond to increasingly higher tourism volumes appropriately.
Benefits for Foreign Visitors Too
Besides enjoying a safer visit in Europe, there are several positive results expected of ETIAS for foreign nationals:
- Efficiency at Passport Control: As an electronic visa waiver linked directly to the holder’s passport, ETIAS is poised to expedite document checks at the border. Smart passport gates will allow ETIAS holders to bypass lines at European passport check desks.
- Simplified Application Process: Unlike traditional visas, it doesn’t necessitate in-person applications at an embassy. With a quick online application that takes only minutes, ETIAS holders can visit all Schengen countries and cross internal borders without consulate or travel visa agency visits.
- Overstay Prevention: it will provide travelers with vital information to avoid overstaying their permits. Through online management, travelers can ascertain how many days they have to remain in Europe.
Tips and Recommendations for ETIAS and Traveling to Europe
1. Apply Early: Start your ETIAS application well in advance of your planned travel date to allow for any unexpected delays in processing.
2. Check Passport Expiry: Ensure your passport is valid for at least three months beyond your intended departure date from Europe, as entry is required.
3. Keep ETIAS Confirmation: After approval, save and print your ETIAS confirmation. You’ll need to present it upon arrival in Europe.
4. Travel Itinerary: Have a precise travel itinerary, including accommodation details and return flight information, as you may be asked for these at the border.
5. Local Currency: Carry some local currency in cash, as not all places may accept credit cards, especially in rural areas.
6. Respect Local Customs: Familiarize yourself with local customs and cultural norms in the countries you plan to visit.
7. Travel Insurance: Consider purchasing travel insurance to cover unexpected events like trip cancellations or medical emergencies during your European stay.
8. Emergency Contacts: Keep a list of emergency contacts, including your country’s embassy or consulate, with you.
How Will ETIAS Affect Traveling to Europe with Your Family?
All eligible travelers will need to apply for it starting in early 2025. This includes minors and infants — even if they are featured on a guardian’s passport.
Parents can help their children complete an application before leaving. At present, the application fee is expected to be 7 Euros. Please note that minors will be exempt from paying the ETIAS application fee.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) About ETIAS and Travel to Europe
Is ETIAS a visa?
No, it is not a visa. It is a visa waiver program that allows eligible travelers to register before their trip. You won’t lose that status if you’re already visa-exempt, but registration will be mandatory.
Can minors apply for ETIAS?
Yes, minors and even infants need to apply for it. Parents can assist in completing the application, and minors are often exempt from the application fee.
What should I do if I plan to study in Europe for more than 90 days?
If your study program in Europe exceeds 90 days, you’ll need to obtain a student visa from the country where you intend to study. Most study abroad programs can guide this process.
Can I re-enter Europe with the same ETIAS visa waiver?
Yes, you can use the same ETIAS visa waiver to leave and re-enter Europe within its validity period, usually three years or until your passport expires.
Is ETIAS mandatory for all travelers to Europe?
Once fully implemented, it will be mandatory for eligible travelers planning to visit Europe.
Can I get ETIAS at the border or upon arrival in Europe?
No, it must be obtained before arriving at the border. It is not available for on-the-spot issuance.
If this article helped you, consider checking out the other articles below –
- Learn More About Travel Permission and Travel Consent Letters for Kids
- Permission to Travel and Child Consent Form Letters
- Travel Tips for Hassle Free Airport Transit and Travels
- Requested Travel Documents
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Susan Noel is a passionate traveler and experienced content writer. She has contributed this blog post on behalf of sponsor, ETIAS. The FTF editorial team updated it in August 2023.
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