ETIAS


ETIAS, what it means for travellers; what it means for Frontex

Background

The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is a system for granting authorisation to travel to those countries of the European Union which belong to the Schengen Area.  The final decision on crossing the external border lies with the EU Member State of first destination.  ETIAS will carry out pre-travel screening of travellers who enjoy from visa-free access to the Schengen Area, and thus allow Member States to deny authorisation to travellers considered to pose a security threat, a risk in terms of irregular migration or public health. In order to cross an external Schengen border, visa-free travellers will need to have both a valid travel document and an ETIAS authorisation.

Why?

EU Member States’ border management authorities currently have little information about travellers exempt from visa requirements entering the EU. ETIAS will therefore be an important means of addressing this information gap by supporting security screening and risk assessment of travellers, reinforcing the internal security of the Schengen Area. A similar pre-travel authorisation system is in place for example in the USA, Canada and Australia.

When?

The ETIAS Regulation was passed by the European Parliament on 5 July 2018. The adoption was formally confirmed by the Council of the EU on 5 September and officially signed by the two co-legislators on 12 September. It entered into force on 9 October 2018. The ETIAS legal framework is still in the course of completion with the European Commission’s Implementing and Delegated Acts. ETIAS is due to become operational by the end of 2022.

How many travellers will be affected by ETIAS?

Currently, nationals of around 60 countries worldwide do not need a visa to enter the EU. A detailed list is available here.

There are approximately 1,885 official external border crossing points into the EU. These were estimated to have processed around 565 million external border crossings in 2014, a figure that is forecast to rise to 887 million by 2025. EU citizens will make up two-thirds of these border crossings, and of those non-EU citizens crossing the EU border, it is estimated that approximately one third will come from visa-exempt countries.

Discussions on the status of countries currently in talks with the EU to enjoy visa liberalisation may also have an effect on the number of people applying for ETIAS authorisations in the future.

Frontex will be responsible for setting up and running the ETIAS Central Unit. Operating on a 24/7 basis, the ETIAS Central Unit will have several key tasks, including:

  • where necessary, verifying travel authorisation applications with regard to a traveller's identity in cases of a match against one of the databases checked during the automated process

  • defining, testing, implementing, evaluating and revising specific risk indicators contained in the ETIAS screening rules

  • carrying out regular audits on the processing of applications and on the implementation of the ETIAS screening rules, particularly concerning their impact on fundamental rights, privacy rules and data protection

  • ensuring that the data stored in the application files and the data recorded are correct and up to date

  • providing information about ETIAS to the general public

  • establishing and operating the Carriers Assistance Centre and supplying support to the travellers

ETIAS will be composed of the ETIAS Central Unit, the ETIAS Information System, and the ETIAS National Units.

Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will be responsible for the ETIAS Central Unit (see above), including the Carriers Assistance Centre and helpdesk for travellers.

Eu-LISA will be responsible for the development and the technical management of the ETIAS Information System, comprising, among others:

  • a central system to process the applications
  • a national uniform interface in each Member State that connects the central system and the national infrastructures

  • a secure communication infrastructure between the central system and the national uniform interfaces

  • a public website and a mobile app for mobile devices

  • an email service as well as a number of tools for applicants, such as an account service, a verification tool, and a tool to provide or withdraw consent for data retention beyond the general retention period

  • A carrier gateway for carriers to check whether travellers are in possession of a valid ETIAS authorisation

Member States will establish ETIAS National Units, which will have primary responsibility for:

  • conducting risk assessments on applications forwarded by the ETIAS Central Unit based on the confirmation of matching of information between data contained in the application file and one or more databases checked during the automated process or of meeting the conditions of the screening rules

  • taking final decisions on whether to accept or turn down these applications

  • providing applicants with information on appeals procedures

  • managing the ETIAS watch list together with Europol.

Europol will be primarily responsible for:

  • providing opinions to EU Member States when consulted on applications 

  • managing the ETIAS watch list together with EU Member States.

ETIAS will cross-check identity data provided by travellers in their application against a number of databases. If there is any concern regarding a particular application, it will be further verified and processed manually.

ETIAS will initially check against the following databases:

  • existing EU information systems:

- the Schengen Information System (SIS)
- the Visa Information System (VIS)
- Europol data

  • future EU information systems:

- the Entry/Exit System (EES)
- new Eurodac database

  • Interpol databases:

- the Interpol Stolen and Lost Travel Document database (SLTD)
- the Interpol Travel Documents Associated with Notices database (TDAWN)

  • a dedicated ETIAS watchlist and specific risk indicators.

ETIAS is planned as a simple, fast and traveller-friendly system: completing the online application should not take more than 10 minutes, and automatic approval should be issued within a few minutes in more than 95% of cases.

If the case needs to be handled manually by the ETIAS Central Unit, managed by Frontex, and thereafter followed up by the ETIAS National Units, the response time can be prolonged. In exceptional circumstances, further information may be asked of applicants and further procedural steps could be necessary. The traveller will receive either the final response or a request for additional documentation within 96 hours.

Border guards working at the border crossing points of the Schengen Area will scan travellers’ document data electronically and register them in the Entry/Exit System, thus triggering a query to ETIAS. If the traveller is in possession of a valid travel authorisation, the traveller will be able to continue their journey if all other entry conditions are fulfilled. If the traveller is not in possession of a valid ETIAS travel authorisation, border guards will refuse him/her entry and will record this refusal of entry in the Entry/Exit System.

By the time ETIAS becomes operational, it is estimated that Frontex will employ around 250 dedicated staff in the Central Unit which will be operating 24/7. Eu-LISA is expecting to hire some 40 members of staff. Member States will be responsible for adequately staffing their own ETIAS national units.

Travellers will have to pay a one-off €7 fee, with travellers below 18 and above 70 years of age exempted from this payment. Once issued, the authorisation will be valid for three years for an unlimited number of entries. However, the travel authorisation may be revoked or annulled should the conditions for issuing it no longer apply.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ETIAS Information System, the ETIAS Central Unit and of the ETIAS National Units should be covered entirely by the revenues generated by the fees.

ETIAS will only apply to nationals of countries and territories who enjoy visa-free travel to the Schengen Area. Nationals of EU Member States and nationals of countries belonging to the Schengen Area will not need an ETIAS authorisation.

  • Example: a Norwegian returning home from Brazil via Portugal would not need an ETIAS authorisation, as Norway is a member of the Schengen Area even though it is not an EU Member State.

Nationals of countries exempt from the requirement to hold a visa to enter the EU’s Schengen area will need to be in possession of an ETIAS authorisation only if they wish to cross a Schengen external border.

  • Example: an Australian will need an ETIAS authorisation to travel to Switzerland, which is not an EU Member State but is a member of the Schengen Area. However, the same Australian traveller will not need an ETIAS authorisation to travel to Ireland, which is an EU Member State but not in Schengen.

Under the ETIAS Regulation, individuals wishing to obtain authorisation to enter the territory of the countries belonging to Schengen will have to provide basic information about their identity, travel document, level of education, and occupation, as well as answer a number of background questions concerning issues such as previous stay in conflict zones or criminal convictions.

ETIAS has similarities with systems already used in a number of countries, first and foremost the United States (electronic system for travel authorisation - ESTA), Canada (electronic travel authorisation - eTA) and Australia (electronic travel authority - ETA).

ETIAS will have an effect on the transport industry:

  • Carriers (such as airlines, ships, international bus companies) will have to systematically check whether visa-exempt third country nationals travelling to the Schengen Area are in possession of an ETIAS authorisation before boarding them.

  • In accordance with EU rules even today carriers are liable if entry is refused at the border, and they will remain responsible for repatriating the refused traveller at their own cost, in addition to a possible fine for faulty processing.

  • With ETIAS in place, carriers will also be liable if they transport passengers without an ETIAS authorisatio.

If authorisation is refused, the relevant ETIAS National Unit will have to inform the applicant and provide him/her with information about the applicable national law, the necessary authorities to contact, the procedure to lodge an appeal against the refusal of an application, and any relevant deadlines. A previous refusal of a travel authorisation will not lead to an automatic refusal of a new application.

The ETIAS Regulation contains all necessary safeguards to ensure a fair and adequate processing of the personal data of the applicants. EU Member State law enforcement authorities and Europol will have access to the information of the ETIAS application files only under strictly defined conditions, for the prevention, detection or investigation of terrorist offences or other serious criminal offences.

Personal data recorded in the ETIAS system will only be stored for the period of validity of the travel authorisation, or for five years from the last decision to refuse, revoke or annul the travel authorisation.

In addition, the representatives of the Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights of Frontex, the European Data Protection Supervisor, the European Data Protection Board and the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, as well as the Fundamental Rights Officer of Frontex, will take part in the ETIAS Fundamental Rights Guidance Board, an independent advisory body tasked with  assessing the impact of processing applications and the screening rules on fundamental rights, and providing guidance to the ETIAS Screening Board.

All ETIAS applications will be checked against the following databases: ETIAS Central System, Schengen Information System (SIS), the Entry/Exit System (EES), Visa Information System (VIS), Eurodac, Europol data and Interpol Stolen and Lost Travel Documents Database (SLTD) and Travel Documents Associated with Notices (TDAWN) databases as well as against the ETIAS Watchlist.

If there is a hit against any of those databases, the ETIAS Central Unit will manually process the application and remove ambiguity about applicant’s identity within 12 hours. If the hit is assessed by the ETIAS Central Unit to be false, the automated process continues, whereas if the hit is confirmed, the application file will be forwarded to a responsible EU Member State for further handling. After the manual processing of the application, the ETIAS National Unit of the responsible Member State will either issue or refuse a travel authorisation.


ETIAS Regulation - consolidated text
European Commission press release
European Commission memo
European Parliament press release
European Parliament briefing


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