The European Union has postponed introducing its new travel authorization system until November 2023. As part of the scheme, some visitors who live outside the EU will have to register and pay a €7 fee.

The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) was initially slated to be rolled out in 2021 before being pushed out to May 2023. However, a recent report from the European Commission said it now won't be fully operational until November 2023. 

When it was first announced in 2019, reports around the world referred to the new system as a 'visa,' which the European Commission was quick to point out is incorrect. More than 60 countries have visa-free access to the European Union, which won't change.

But residents of those countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Israel, Singapore, Mexico, and more, will have to register to enter the EU under the ETIAS scheme starting next year and pay €7.

Residents of countries that need a visa to enter the EU for short-term stays are exempt from the new scheme.

Coworkers discussing over computer in office
Visitors can apply for the ETIAS online © Getty Images

How do travelers apply for an ETIAS?

Travelers must apply online through the ETIAS, using their passport and answering questions that include information about any previous criminal record, presence in conflict zones, and any orders to leave a territory. This works similarly to the US ESTA, conducting a quick, automated security check on visitors before allowing them entry.

The application will cost €7 (£6 / US$7.42), and it's estimated that 95% of people will get a positive response within minutes. Out of the remaining applications, 3-4% may need a little longer to process while just 1-2% will be forwarded for a longer, manual review with the potential for refusal. The ETIAS will then be valid for three years.

Where is the ETIAS needed for travel?

Airlines, ferries, train, and bus companies would be obliged to verify passports and ETIAS authorization before boarding. You will be denied entry if you get to a border check without securing the authorization.

Perhaps confusingly, the ETIAS will not be needed for every EU country but rather for those in the Schengen Area, who have abolished all controls at their mutual borders. Currently, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Croatia do not fall within that area so an ETIAS will not be required to travel to those European countries.

It will however be required to enter Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The Commission says the new system will improve security while reinforcing its commitment to greater access to visa-free travel.

How long is an ETIAS valid for?

The ETIAS is valid for a three-year period or until the expiry date of the travel document.

During that time, travelers can use it for an unlimited number of entries into the European countries in the Schengen Area.

This article was first published March 2019 and updated August 2022

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