ETIAS, a new administrative formality that could challenge non-legal immigration

Etias - The rules of travel to most European countries have changed for billions of people from over 60 visa-exempt countries who are required to have a travel authorization to enter 30 European countries for a short stay.

Travellers, what you need to know about ETIAS if you are concerned by the new control provisions

The set of measures taken by the European Commission bears a striking resemblance to the security measures imposed by countries with tighter immigration controls at their borders. Without being naive, even if this is a simple administrative formality, the traveler is exposed to three levels of controls, both a priori and a posteriori :

1- On a personal level (your mobility within the EU is checked),

2- Security (you are more easily located)

3- Sanitary (health on the same level as security).

The aim of these measures is to develop databases that can be cross-checked by the various member states. Interpol’s involvement is not exhaustive: if the police agency has access to the ETIAS databases, it also has access to other databases through internal police powers, as well as between other agencies such as Europol (and note only). The exchange of database queries between two or more states is also encouraged as part of transnational strategic collaboration.

In short, it is possible to refuse your entry to a European state in the same way that you have exceeded your travel limit or represent a threat to the security of that state.

The expected legal cases

For a country like Greece, it will be more complicated for a tourist from outside Europe to exceed the number of days subject to the Schengen Visa to which he or she was not previously subject. As Greece is notorious for not making it easy to obtain citizenship, the tourist will be obliged to apply for a residence permit if he or she used to go to his or her second home for the vacations. Similarly, anyone entering Greece with an expired tourist visa will have to return to their country of origin to apply for an ETIAS.

A control and security model already used by third countries

Following the example of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (Esta) applied in the USA since 2009, the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) consists of an authorization to enter the European Union for citizens of the 32 countries exempt from visa requirements to enter the Schengen area. The Schengen area currently includes 28 member states. Most of these countries are members of the European Union (EU).

This administrative formality will enable a security check to be carried out on each prospective traveler, to determine whether or not he or she can enter the Schengen or assimilated area. If you have any doubts about whether you need to submit an ETIAS application, you should contact the competent embassy in your destination country.

It will apply to all nationals of countries that do not require a visa to enter the Schengen zone, including Americans, British and Canadians. Similarly, all bi-national residents will be subject to this formality if they are unable to present a European passport (issued by a member state of the European Union).

Originally scheduled for implementation in 2023, then in July 2024, the system will be delayed until July 2025. These delays have been caused by technical difficulties in the subsidiary application at airports. The Frontex agency is in charge of defining the modalities for communicating access to ETIAS since Jan 2024.

How to get it

In July 2023, the cost of the ETIAS application will be 7 euros. However, people under 18 or over 70 are exempt from this fee. This document linked to a traveler’s passport will be valid for up to three years, or until the passport expires. Any application for a new passport will require a new ETIAS travel authorization.

With a valid travel authorization, the visitor can enter European territory as often as desired, for stays of up to 3 months over a 6-month period. As in the USA or Israel, the document and passport will be checked by a border guard on arrival.

Travelers must submit an ETIAS application by name (with their own valid passport). Any travel document reported lost, stolen, or invalid will result in refusal of authorization.

If no medical questions can be answered, the document may be refused if the applicant presents a “high epidemic risk” under current domestic legislation.

The expected procedure

The aim of this measure is to “identify security, irregular immigration and epidemic risks that may be caused by visa-exempt visitors”, as stated by the European Commission. Travelers will be able to obtain their ETIAS on an online platform, where they will have to provide details of their reasons for traveling, their level of education, their occupation, their criminal record and, of course, their full identity, including surname, first name, date and place of birth, address, nationality, telephone number and e-mail address. Anyone declaring that they are visiting family members living in the Schengen area will also have to provide information about them. While the procedure is designed to be fast, the response time may vary depending on the decision: between 4 days and two weeks in the case of suspicion.

By submitting an ETIAS application, you agree to feed a database which will be cross-checked between the various EU member states, including with data held by Interpol. According to current regulations, “the ETIAS national unit of the Member State responsible will have the option, including after an interview, of issuing a travel authorization with a note recommending that the border authorities carry out a second-line check”. If there is any doubt about the information provided online, the traveler may be required to undergo an interview. Additional documents may be requested. Failure to attend the interview, or to provide the requested documents within the allotted time, will result in refusal by ETIAS.

In addition, it is expected that only the airport check will guarantee the use and usefulness of the ETIAS.

Travelers are advised to take the necessary steps well in advance of their departure date, because experience has shown that the documents to be included in the file depend on the responsiveness of the competent public authority (like the criminal record).  Unorganized tourists can jeopardize their access to Europe.

All ETIAS measures and access conditions can be consulted on the European Union’s dedicated website: https://travel-europe.europa.eu/etias/what-etias_en

 

Emilie LE BON
Jurist in International Law & Economics
All reproduction prohibited

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