Who will need Etias for Europe travel? Everything you need to know

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Brexit has brought a lot of changes for UK travellers, ranging from passport validity requirements to data roaming while abroad. And from November 2023, there’s a new form that holidaymakers will have to fill in to enter certain European countries. 

Known as the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (Etias), the extra step is designed to pre-vet visitors for security purposes. There’s a fee of €7 and, once approved, the authorisation document will last for up to three years.

The Etias is still in development — having already been delayed — which means details of how it will work are being released gradually. Here’s what we know about it so far.

Main photo: visitors will need Etias authorisation to enter Schengen states and some other countries from November 2023 (Getty Images)

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What is Etias and how can I apply for it?

When the UK left the EU, it became one of more than 60 countries whose citizens are required to go through Etias approval before travel.

The system was first proposed in November 2016 by the European Commission. The idea was to create a digital vetting system to “identify security, irregular migration or high epidemic risks posed by visa-exempt visitors travelling to the Schengen states”.

A Schengen visa: the Etias procedure is intended to be cheaper and quicker for visitors (Alamy)

The Schengen states are 26 countries in Europe that have agreed to an open border with each other. This currently includes: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. In addition, Etias applications will also be required when visiting Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania.

The Etias is not considered a visa, according to the EU, in part because it’s cheaper, quicker and easier to apply. You don’t need to visit an embassy to submit your application, for example, and you don’t need to share as much information, such as your biometric data. All you have to do is fill in a form before you travel, pay a fee, and you should receive your authorisation. See below for more details.

How does it work?

The system should in theory work in a similar way to the Esta that is used to enter the US and the eTA for entering Canada. The “largely automated IT system” will have a digital application form that you’ll have to fill in. This will be made available through an official website as well as on a mobile app. The form shouldn’t take longer than ten minutes, and you should only need your passport or similar travel document. 

Once completed, your details will be checked against databases held by EU countries, including immigration and Interpol. In 95 per cent of cases, you should get a travel authorisation within minutes. This will last for up to three years, although it can be revoked at any time.

Passport, sunglasses… and you’re going to need Etias too (Getty Images)

The EU expects that between three and four per cent of applications will need to be manually checked, which could take up to 96 hours; between one and two per cent of applicants may need further vetting, which could take up to four weeks, with a final decision being communicated via email. Should you be rejected, you’ll have the right to appeal.

Before you board your flight, train or other mode of transport, you may be asked to verify whether you have an Etias authorisation to travel. On arrival at border control, your Etias authorisation will be checked alongside your passport or other travel documents, but then you should be waived through as normal, assuming all other requirements are met. 

How much does Etias cost?

Although everyone travelling under the visa-free agreement is required to apply for an Etias authorisation, for applicants aged between 18 and 70, a fee of €7 is required. This money will go to the EU and help fund Etias. If you’re travelling under a visa, for example for work, you won’t need one.

Travellers will be able to apply for Etias via a mobile app (Getty Images)

When does it start?

Originally due to be launched in 2021, the Etias is now expected to be operational by November 2023. A transition period will be applied once it’s launched. As it’s still in development, the official website and app have not been launched yet.

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