Discover ETIAS: a Visa Waiver for Europe

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Published 2020-06-26 11:28

The European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS, is an upcoming visa waiver initiative for the Schengen Area of Europe. If you are a national of an eligible country, ETIAS will give you visa-free access to 26 European countries, with a diverse range of cultures to experience.

What is ETIAS?

ETIAS is an electronic travel authorization that will grant international travelers permission to enter any and all countries in the Schengen Area.

Although it allows you to travel to foreign countries, ETIAS is not a visa. It is simply an extra entry requirement for visa-exempt travelers to Europe and is far quicker and easier to obtain than most traditional visas.

This European visa waiver will be available online, so you will not need to waste time going to an embassy or consulate for the country you plan to visit. Instead, you can register your details with the system via the internet from the comfort of your own home.

Many countries have similar systems in place as a security measure to screen travelers who do not need to apply for a visa and streamline border check procedures. The United States of America has the ESTA program and Canada, Australia, and New Zealand all have ETA (electronic travel authorization) systems. ETIAS is based on these systems, but will cover entry for multiple countries in Europe.

When the system is implemented it will be mandatory for all eligible travelers to apply online prior to traveling to a European country that is part of the Schengen Area.

What is the Schengen Area?

The Schengen Area is a group of 26 European countries that share a policy of open borders with one another. This means that if you have permission to visit one member state, for example with the ETIAS, you can travel freely between all of them.

Most of Western and Central Europe is part of the Schengen Area. 22 of the 27 European Union (EU) member states are also part of the Schengen Area, while the 4 European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries make up the remainder.

Countries as varied as France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Greece, and the Scandinavian countries are all part of the Schengen Zone.

Experiencing Europe with ETIAS

Europe is a dream destination for so many people because of the range of places, cultures, food, and activities to experience. France, Sweden, and Greece, for example, have completely different approaches to language and life in general, and yet you can visit all 3 in one trip with ETIAS.

If you are interested in history, Europe has innumerable buildings, museums, and important sites to visit, dating back thousands of years. 

Western civilization arguably developed from the groundwork laid down by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Visitors can find the ruins of temples and ancient cities like Mycenae in various parts of mainland Greece and its many islands, while Roman-era stadiums, theatres, and fortifications can be found all over Europe.

Medieval castles, lavish palaces, and impressive country estates can be found from Portugal to Austria, and many can be visited. The famous Palace of Versailles near Paris is one of the most popular examples.

Lovers of architecture can find beautiful and iconic buildings throughout the Schengen Area. You can climb the Eiffel Tower, marvel at Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and take the obligatory photo of yourself holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa all on the same trip.

European countries can deliver any kind of holiday, whether you want to relax on the beaches of Spain’s Costa del Sol, go skiing in the Swiss Alps, explore Germany’s Black Forest, or take a cruise up a Norwegian fjord.

The cuisine is equally varied. Whether you prefer eating at Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris or quaint, family-owned establishments in Amsterdam, you are sure to find a lot to love. With the ETIAS, you will be able to enjoy an authentic pizza in Naples or the finest serrano ham in Spain.

When will ETIAS be introduced?

The European Travel Information and Authorization System is set to be implemented in 2022. The scheme was announced by the European Parliament in 2018 and the system is currently in development.

Until then, if you are from a country that enjoys visa exemption, you will be able to visit Schengen member states using only your passport.

If you are not from a visa-exempt country, you will require a Schengen visa to enter the open-borders zone.

How will ETIAS affect international travel?

When ETIAS is implemented, it will become a new travel requirement if you are a citizen of country that enjoys visa exemption for the Schengen Area.

In effect, it will not change much for you as a traveler. You will simply have to register your details before your trip in order to have your entry to Europe approved.

Registering with ETIAS will allow EU and EFTA security authorities to pre-screen all travelers before they arrive, allowing them to identify risks and block them from entering Schengen member countries. This will make traveling to Europe safer than ever before.

Another benefit for the traveler is that arriving in Europe and passing through border control will now be quicker than ever thanks to the digitalization of data and the pre-screening process. There will be fewer security checks and greater automation, speeding up the queues at passport control.

Once you arrive in the first Schengen country, you are free to travel around the rest of the open borders region without any further stops or checks. Europe is yours to experience and enjoy!