ETIAS: Everything you need to know about the new mandatory document for traveling in Europe

Europe takes inspiration from the United States to enhance its border security. Much like the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) implemented in the USA since 2009, the European Union will introduce in 2024 a required document for traveling within the Schengen Zone.

But what is this document called the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS)? We provide more explanations in this article.

Not to be confused with a visa

The ETIAS is not a visa but an electronic travel authorization set up by the European Commission. It will allow a security check for each travel candidate to determine whether they can enter one of the 33 Schengen area countries or equivalent.

Affected will be tourists or business travelers from a list of countries that do not require a visa to enter the Schengen Zone.

This document, linked to a traveler’s passport, will be valid for up to three years or until the passport’s expiration. Any new passport request will trigger a new ETIAS travel authorization request.

With a valid travel authorization, visitors can enter the territories of these European countries as often as they wish for stays up to 3 months within a 6-month period. As in the U.S., the document and passport will be checked by a border guard upon arrival.

What are the procedures?

Travelers can obtain their ETIAS online in just a few minutes. Adults will need their credit card to pay a fee of 7 euros and their passport. The procedure will be free for minors.

They will need to answer questions about their trip, educational background, profession, criminal history, and of course, provide their full identity including name, first name, date and place of birth, address, nationality, phone, and email address.

Anyone declaring they’re visiting family members in the Schengen area will also need to provide information about them.

Although the procedure aims to be quick, the response time can vary depending on the decision: between 4 days and two weeks if suspicions arise.

Reasons for denial?

Generally, the ETIAS system will allow European states to cross-check with databases from the European Union and Interpol. According to current regulations, “the national ETIAS unit of the responsible member state may, even after an interview, issue a travel authorization with a recommendation for border authorities to carry out a second-line verification.”

In fewer than 0.1% of cases, an interview will be arranged if there are doubts about the provided information. Failing to attend an interview or not providing the required additional documents on time will result in an ETIAS denial. And obtaining it does not guarantee 100% entry into European territory; only an airport check does.

Note that travelers must apply for the ETIAS with their own valid passport. Any travel document reported as lost, stolen, or invalid will result in denial.

While no medical questions will be asked for an ETIAS application, the document can be denied if the applicant poses a “high epidemic risk.”

To avoid any surprises, it’s in the best interest of travelers to apply well in advance of their departure date, or they risk being denied entry into Europe.