Many of us can freely travel within the European Union (EU) thanks to the Schengen Agreement. However, by 2023 all visa-free tourists – including Singaporeans – will need to pay for a new travel authorisation called the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) before travelling to the Europe.
Initially planned to be rolled out in 2021, the European Commission has announced that the ETIAS will now only be fully operational from November 2023. This means that some visitors who live outside the EU – including the UK – will have to register and pay before they travel.
What exactly is ETIAS?
The ETIAS is not an entry visa as it’s only applicable to those who can travel to the EU visa-free. More than 60 countries – including Singapore, Malaysia, US, UK, and Japan – have visa-free access to the European Union, which won’t change. Those who need a visa to enter the EU for short-term stays are exempt from the new scheme.
ETIAS is actually closer to the US’s ESTA where the process includes a quick, automated security check on visitors before allowing them entry.
Confusingly, the ETIAS only applies to countries in the EU Schengen Area who have abolised all controls at their mutual borders. It also applies to EU micro states like Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican city, as well as non-EU members like Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
Not all European countries require it. Currently, you don’t require an ETIAS to travel to Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Croatia, as well as Ireland and the UK.
Related: How to study in Europe for free
How to apply for ETIAS
You’ll have to apply online through the ETIAS website. In addition to your passport details, you’ll need to answer questions relating to any previous criminal record, presence in conflict zones, and any orders to leave a territory.
Unlike a visa, no biometric data is collected and significantly less information is gathered than during a
visa application procedure. The application should take no longer than 10 minutes to fill and will cost €7.
In 95% of the cases, you’ll get an approval within minutes. Limited cases may need further checks and take a bit longer to process. It could take up to 30 days as it may require a manual review with a potential for a refusal. Once approved, the ETIAS is valid for 3 years or until the expiry date of the passport. Approved permit holders can stay in Europe without a visa for up to 90 days per 180-day period.
When to present the ETIAS in Europe
Since the ETIAS will be a mandatory pre-condition for entry to the Schengen area, it will be checked together with travel documents by the border guards when entering the EU. This also means that airlines will need to check passengers before issuing them a boarding pass.
The Commission says the new system will improve security while reinforcing its commitment to greater access to visa-free travel. Fore more on the application, check this.