ETIAS: a new online visa required to enter the European Union

Identifying persons who may pose a security threat before travelling to European Union countries is the objective of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), a new online visa required to enter the European Union. This is the latest regulation adopted by the Council of Europe on 5 September 2018, which should enter into force in 2021.

ETIAS is a tool to strengthen the control of the European Union’s (EU) external borders and the protection of citizens, as it will identify those who may pose a security threat before reaching the European Union.

There will be 26 countries where this will be necessary, including the most popular European destinations: Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Greece, Denmark and Switzerland, among others.

ETIAS will allow early checks and, if necessary, refuse travel authorisation to third-country nationals without visas travelling to the Schengen area.

The European authorities believe that this will contribute to improving internal security, preventing illegal immigration, protecting public health and reducing delays in customs formalities by identifying persons who may present a risk before reaching the external borders.

In his State of the Union speech in 2016, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said that “we must know who is crossing our borders. In this way, we will know who is travelling to Europe before they even arrive.

Improve safety

The main reason for approving the ETIAS travel authorization is primarily security.

In view of the increased risks for travellers from all over the world, the EU wishes to ensure smooth travel to their countries.

ETIAS will significantly reduce risks through its data and information collection systems.

This means that ETIAS will detect if a person represents a danger of any kind to the security of the Schengen countries, which will result in the refusal to allow him/her access to that person in order to avoid a risk within the EU’s borders.

Although, in addition to making travel safer, ETIAS travel authorisations will also contribute to EU countries and all travellers in the following ways:

Reduce procedures and waiting times, improve border management in EU countries, contribute to the detection and reduction of crime and terrorism, prevent irregular migration and complement the European Union visa liberalisation policy.

Travellers will need to obtain authorization before travel, via an online application, and pay a fee.

The information presented in each request will be automatically processed in the European Union and compared with the relevant Interpol databases to determine whether there are grounds to refuse a travel authorisation.

If there are no problems, the travel authorization will be issued automatically and quickly, which should be the case for most applications.

The ETIAS application form must be completed on the Internet for just over 10 minutes, although, depending on the country of citizenship, some spaces may be submitted for completion.

Biometric data

Travellers must provide biometric data such as surname, first name, surname, date of birth and date and place of birth, as well as other indicators related to their citizenship, such as an address, telephone and e-mail number, education and work experience, and the first EU country that plans to visit.

You will also be asked to indicate your background and eligibility, report your state of health, travel to countries at war or places where you have received an order to abandon or refuse entry, and a criminal record.

In the case of minors, the legal guardian must take charge of the application for ETIAS travel authorisation and, in the case of family members of Union citizens from other countries, he/she must present proof of family ties, residence permit and other basic information.

If this ‘online’ petition system registers an element that requires further investigation before the visa is granted, the ETIAS Central Unit will first check that the recorded data matches.

In this case and in case of doubt, the application will be processed manually by the ETIAS national unit of the responsible Member State.

The issuance or rejection of a request that has triggered an alert shall be made no later than 96 hours after the filing of the request or, if additional information has been requested, 96 hours after receipt of the response to that request.

Before boarding, air and sea carriers must check whether third-country nationals subject to the authorisation requirement have a valid travel authorisation.

Three years after the entry into service of ETIAS, this obligation will also apply to international carriers transporting groups by land by coach.

A travel authorization will be valid for three years or until the end of the validity of the travel document registered at the time of application, whichever comes first.

The South American countries whose travellers will need to request authorization are as follows: Argentina, El Salvador, Panama, Brazil, Guatemala, Paraguay, Chile, Honduras, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Other countries include Andorra, Monaco or Montenegro, with a total of 61 in the world.

Limit Access to the EU

For immigration lawyer Luz Elena Jara, the objective of the Regulation is clearly to limit access to the European Union for citizens of countries that do not require a visa to enter the Community territory with the excuse of guaranteeing rapid and secure entry, that this is not the case, as it concerns countries that do not require a visa to enter the European Union, that complete the form and pay the entry fees into the system, with the possibility of an immediate refusal of access.

“For example,” says the lawyer for LJ Abogados, “we have cases of foreigners from Latin American countries who were banned from entering Germany or the Netherlands and who, by requesting this permission to enter Spain, will automatically be refused entry, although they can now process their residences here and revoke their respective entry prohibitions. Once this system is effective, they will no longer be able to do so, as they will be obliged to initiate administrative and judicial procedures in order to have access to it, which will imply a restriction of their right or freedom of movement and residence. ”

Border control, a key objective of the EU in recent years due to the very serious situation of refugees, partly explains this increased verification, as it clearly concerns countries that are not required to obtain a visa, explains Luz Elena Jara.

“Nor would it reduce waiting procedures,” he added, “since a similar system operating as ESTA in the United States, ETIAS can allow or deny entry into any EU country if the border authority understands that you have the entry requirements. Therefore, this control system is only explained as an additional limitation of border control that will affect people who wish to travel across the EU, whether for business travel, tourism, health or simply for family visits.”