Most travellers looking to enter the EU will soon need to obtain electronic travel authorizations before travel. The US, Canada, Australia, and South Korea already ask travellers eligible for visa-free entry to get pre-travel authorisations. It's important to clarify that an ETA is not an E-visa.
Travellers subject to visa requirements do not need to apply for an ETA, while most visa-exempted foreign nationals must apply for an ETA - or will need it very soon. An E-Visa is typically valid for 30-60 days for a single entry, while an ETA grants multiple entries through a longer period of time.
What are these systems and how do they work? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is an ETA and how does it work?
An Electronic Travel Authorisation, commonly referred to as “ETA” is an automated system implemented by authorities of some countries to verify the eligibility of travellers entering without visas and is used to determine whether they pose a risk to national security.
ETAs make entry checks and procedures smoother because they anticipate part of the screening to prior the arrival. Holding the permit, however, doesn’t grant entry: border officials might deny entry due to other reasons if you’re found to be non-compliant with other entry requirements.
These authorisations enable authorities to detect if travellers are linked to terrorism, cross-border crimes, illegal immigration or public health risks.
ETAs are more and more frequent. The UK is also launching ETA in October just for Qatari nationals and will extend the eligibility to other countries later in 2024.
How to apply for the new EU ETIAS
The ETIAS is not an electronic visa, but you will need to apply online if you are a national of a country part of the visa-free regime for Schengen.
Applications for European ETIAS will be through a dedicated online website or the ETIAS mobile application. You will be asked to add ID info in addition to your trip’s information.
Travellers can also nominate a third party - another person or a commercial intermediary - instead of applying personally. They’ll need to provide an authorisation for the treatment of their personal data. Bear in mind that fake platforms are rising on the internet, and authorities have warned that scammers will take advantage of misinformation around the ETIAS requirement. An intermediary may require an additional fee for their services: make sure that this extra fee is reasonable. You will be able to anonymously report any suspicious activity related to applications on the official EU ETIAS website.
How North American travellers will be affected when planning their European holidays
US citizens won’t need an ETIAS for at least another year, as the launch has just been postponed again to 2025. The delay concerns also other nationalities among the 60 that will be eligible to apply.
Therefore, Americans won’t be affected in the short-medium term. Once the ETIAS is in place, likely in May 2025, they will need to apply for it in order to enter any European countries requiring ETIAS for a short-term stay (90 days in any 180-day period). The permit will last 3 years. Those wishing to stay longer must meet the entry requirements in accordance with national or EU migration law, such as holding a visa or residence permit.
Expected wait periods and delays
The ETIAS application will be quick and processed in a couple of minutes. But as for any other electronic permit, we suggest applying at least 30 days before the trip, in order to avoid any inconvenience.
The real question is when this requirement will take effect, as the launch has just been delayed again due to the launch of the Schengen Entry-Exit System (EES), which needs to be operational before ETIAS is implemented. French authorities have also been insisting on delaying the EES and the ETIAS due to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Corporates, travellers and industry suppliers need to be ready for these changes by learning about the scheme via the online government resources available. They can track real-time changes in entry requirements, including ETAs schemes.
Lead image: Photo by louis magnotti