What is the European Travel Information & Authorization System?

By jmarble on Tue, 11/30/2021 - 00:35


The ETIAS Waiver allows Americans visa-free travel to the Schengen Zone countries

Americans are going to have to rethink the way they travel to Europe and say goodbye to traveling with simply a passport. In addition to your passport, all American travelers going to the Schengen Area of Europe will be required to apply for the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). This travel program launches in late 2022. How does it work? Read on to learn more. 

What is the ETIAS visa waiver?

The European Travel Information and Authorization System is essentially a visa waiver program. All short-term visitors (90 days or fewer) from visa-exempt countries will be required to apply for this program. Long-term travelers will still need to apply for a traditional visa.

ETIAS serves as a security pre-screening tool and also helps European countries monitor when travelers enter and leave the region, which they have not been able to do with many short-term travelers. The ETIAS waiver will be required to enter the Schengen Zone, a 26-country region of Europe comprised mostly of EU countries.

This digital document is tied to your passport and is valid for three years (or when your passport expires, whichever happens first).

The United States has a similar program in place known as ESTA.

Who needs the ETIAS and what are the reasons to apply?

Citizens from more than 60 countries, including the United States and Canada, will be required to use ETIAS for short stays. These countries have been considered ‘visa exempt’ and will have to apply for the visa waiver beginning in late 2022.

However, just because you are from one of these visa exempt countries does not always mean you need to fill out the ETIAS application. The ETIAS authorization system is required for short-term stays (90 days or fewer in any 180-day period) for tourism, business, or medical purposes.

You still need to apply for a traditional visa if you are traveling for school (in most cases), if you are relocating for work, or if you plan on staying for longer than 90 days. If you’re planning on traveling for business, be sure to check the visa requirements to determine if your particular situation is eligible for the visa waiver.

Can the ETIAS application be rejected?

Yes. ETIAS denial can occur for a variety of reasons, many of which are not directly related to security concerns. The electronic application must be filled out precisely and error-free. The application is processed against several European security databases, so an inconsistency could result in denial. 
At the core of the program, the system is checking for potential security concerns. If your application creates a ‘hit’, you could experience a delay or denial.

Even something as a simple typo on your name compared to what is on your passport could lead to a delay in processing. When it comes time to apply, don’t go it alone — we can help you throughout the process to make sure your application is filled out correctly. The first time.

What countries can I visit with the ETIAS waiver?

You can visit any (or all!) countries in the Schengen area of Europe with the waiver – 26 ETIAS countries total:

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Note that most of these countries are EU members, but not all EU members are part of the Schengen Zone. Once you enter the external border of the region, you are free to travel across internal borders without the need for more paperwork.

When can I apply for visa-free travel with ETIAS?

The program is officially scheduled to launch late 2022. The application will be entirely online, and you will have to have a valid passport to apply. Applications are expected to process quickly (within three days is anticipated), but any inconsistencies in the application could result in delays.

In rare instances, it’s possible that some applications could take up to 30 days to process.

How do I apply for ETIAS?

The entire application process is digital. The application is filled out online and is electronically processed against security databases. You can access the application from a phone, tablet, or desktop. Once you are approved, the final ETIAS authorization document will be digitally tied to your passport. This waiver is valid for three years, or when your passport expires, whichever occurs first.

Expect to provide a lot of identification information, including:

•    Valid passport information
•    Biographical information
•    Employment/school information

The information on your passport should match the information on your application exactly.

Get ready for a new way to travel to Europe in 2022 and beyond

Beginning in late 2022, Americans and nationals from 60 other countries will need to apply for the European Travel Information and Authorization System. Sign up for our ETIAS newsletter and stay up to date on the latest updates for European travel. 

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