The European Union has long been planning to introduce two separate but integrated border management systems. Together, the systems will strengthen European security while also protecting travelers. The two new systems are the Entry/Exit System (EES) and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).
The need for secure, efficient border management for the EU is paramount. Starting from 2024, some 1.4 billion people from over 60 visa-exempt countries are required to have a travel authorization to enter most European countries. The 2024 Olympic Games in Paris alone will bring a flood of incoming travellers.
Following several delays, the new systems are currently expected to become operational sometime in 2024. The EES will launch first, followed by ETIAS a few months later. According to the European Commission Migration and Home Affairs, the actual launch date will be announced at the end of this year.
The Entry/Exist System (EES) is based on biometrics
The Entry/Exit System (EES) is a shared Biometric Matching System (sBMS) to serve the identification needs of the ETIAS. Schengen Visa Info explains that the EES is a database that is set to replace passport stamps and enhance border security in the European Union.
The EES is expected to help combat irregular immigration and trans-border crime for the European countries in the Schengen Area.
The EES will integrate a database of fingerprints and facial images from more than 400 million third-country nationals. It will also collect those biometrics from travellers at the border.
Finally, EES will track the travel document data and the date and place where each traveller enters and exits the territory of European countries using the system.
What travellers will experience: Because EES takes place at the external border of each country using the system, travellers won’t need to register or make special arrangements in advance. However, biometrics such as facial recognition and fingerprints will be collected from travellers at those borders.
European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS)
ETIAS travel authorization is a new entry requirement to gain admission to the EU. ETIAS is not a visa, nor does it modify the visa-free status of travellers.
Travel authorizations are intended for short visits (up to 90 days).
Individuals must apply for a travel authorization. Once a passenger’s travel authorization is approved, ETIAS will be linked to his passport or other travel document and will be valid for up to three years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first.
Travellers who will need an ETIAS travel authorization:
- Visa-exempt nationals from the 27 Schengen Area countries as well as Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Romania (with some exceptions, as explained below).
- Citizens of countries that currently have visa-free access to the EU (for short stays for business or tourism) and who are not travelling on an EU passport.
- Citizens of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and many other countries.
Travellers who will NOT need an ETIAS travel authorization:
- Dual citizens who enter Europe with an EU passport.
- Travellers who have Schengen visas will not need ETIAS to enter the Schengen Zone.
What travellers will experience: Travellers will be required to apply for an ETIAS travel authorization well in advance of starting their trip to Europe. “Passengers will be required to complete an online application form that covers a range of biometric-, immigration-, and security-related questions, along with the payment of a [nominal] fee,” JD Supra explains. Also, having an ETIAS travel authorization does not guarantee admission, since border guards will still make decisions as to admission.
ETIAS has been in development since 2016. Along the way, the launch of the system has been delayed several times. Many travel groups and travelers have been disappointed by the delays. Certain parties, however, believe the delays bring benefits. The International Air Transport Association and Europe’s main air transport trade groups Airlines for Europe, the European Regions Airline Association, and Airports Council International believe that delaying the implementation of ETIAS is advantageous because it will allow extra time to hire and train staff and thoroughly test the new system. Those steps, the groups have argued, will ensure a smooth rollout and operation of the system so that air passengers do not face disruptions.
European Travel Information & Authorisation System website
UK Parliament House of Commons Library
Aviation International News
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