By 2021, the European Union (EU) will have a new electronic authorization system affecting travellers from typically visa-exempt countries like Canada and the US: the European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS for short.
From January 1st, 2021 onwards, potential travellers to a number of Shengen Area European countries must apply for ETIAS travel authorization. This applies to short term visits, up to 90 days, whether for business or pleasure.
What is the purpose of the ETIAS?
This travel requirement is meant to improve security in the Schengen Area, by pre-screening travellers and identifying any possible security threats or migratory risks they may pose. Detailed background checks are measured against security databases, such as those of Interpol or Europol. It’s also meant to reduce procedures and wait times for travellers, overall.
How can travellers obtain ETIAS authorization?
Prior to departure, travellers are required to fill out an online application, which requires basic biographical information such as full name, date of birth, country of residency, passport number, past visa details, and so on.
After filling out the form, applicants must pay a one-time 7€ fee (equivalent to around CAD $10.50). ETIAS travel authorizations, which cover multiple entries within Schengen countries over a 3-year period, are expected to be issued within minutes, in most cases.
What is the Schengen Area?
The Schengen Area is made up of 26 western European countries, excluding the UK. It was established by the EU in 1995 to grant open access to its citizens as well as international passport holders, abolishing border checks and promoting ease of travel across participating countries.
Currently, the Schengen member countries are the following:
As such, the implementation of ETIAS will not affect travel to the UK, Eastern Europe or Russia.
Is the ETIAS different from a visa?
Yes—getting an ETIAS authorization is simpler than getting a visitor’s visa. Here, applicants don’t need to visit a consulate or undergo any biometric data collection. Instead, it’s meant for travellers originally from visa-free, non-EU countries like Canada, the US, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, various South American countries, and others.
Check back every so often for updates to the ETIAS!