As with many travel applications, the ETIAS scheme is designed to streamline both application process and the travel process. With an online application system, those wishing to travel to ETIAS countries will be tasked with filling in a multitude of questions online, taking no more than twenty minutes to complete. Once the application has been submitted, applicants are often approved within minutes.
An innovative system, with four years of fine tuning to go. The design of the ETIAS system is a cooperation between several governmental agencies, with inter-organizational information sharing taking place at an incredible speed to ensure optimum user experience and traveler safety.
The sharing of data makes it possible for application approval to come back within minutes for bona fide travelers, those making up the majority of applications. Their ETIAS will then be electronically attached to their passport.
When an application is logged with the system, and data shows suspicious activity, the system flags the aforementioned application for a human check with more intense scrutiny. This flagging of an application can occur from misinformation being submitted, or even for known associations with those on governmental watchlists.
In this instance, the ETIAS will not be issued immediately; instead, the application is subject to further investigation by an immigration official. The application will either be issued within 96 hours (4 days) or will be denied.
The Application Process
Application – ETIAS is only available online; you can not apply through the postal service. You must apply before you leave for Europe and make sure that every member of your traveling party does the same.
Filling in the form – The application process of filling in questions is likely to take 20 minutes. The following information will likely be required:
- Personal biometric information (e.g., name, date of birth, )
- Travel document information.
- Passport information.
- Name of country of intended first entry.
- Medical conditions.
- Information about previous travel to countries actively engaged in war.
- Information about countries you have been deported from.
- Information about countries you have been denied entry to.
- Your criminal record.
Paying the fee – An ETIAS will not be issued unless payment is made in full. You must ensure that you have sufficient funds available prior to application as a lack of payment will lead to your application being automatically denied. The cost of the ETIAS is set to be free to under 18’s.
Getting it right – There are various errors which can be made when filling out the online form, submitting the form and even paying for the form. Therefore vigilance is vital.
- Read the question – make sure you understand what the question is asking you before you enter your response.
- Answer honestly – don’t try to say what you think the system wants to hear. Due to the vast number of databases accessed to check applicant details, the information you provide has to match up with the information they already have at their disposal.
- Don’t falsify – trying to provide false information may, in exceptional circumstances, get you an ETIAS, but the overarching system is designed to catch you and while you may begin your journey – you WILL be denied entry at the EU border.
- Don’t take too long- filling in the online application form should take you about 20 minutes. Make sure you have enough time to fill out the entire document in one sitting as there is a timeout period; extended periods of inactivity will result in the application form expiring. You may receive notification when the page will timeout, but this will not always be the case.
- Biometric data – it is imperative that you get this information right. Something as simple as misspelling your name or entering the wrong gender can lead to denial of ETIAS or refusal of entry once you get to Europe.
- Payment – make sure your method of payment is accepted by ETIAS. You must also ensure that there are no holds, blocks or insufficient funds in your account. If your payment is declined, for the above reasons or just through error, your application will not be approved.
The approval procedure – Once your application is submitted it is subject to a thorough analysis. The scope and breadth of the data analyzed is huge.
Each application will be checked by:
- ETIAS screening procedures and rules
- ETIAS watchlist
- SIS (Schengen Information System)
- VIS (Visa Information System)
- EUROPOL data
- SLTD (INTERPOL’s Database of Stolen and Lost Travel Documents)
- EURODAC (European Dactyloscopy, the E.U. fingerprint database)
- ECRIS (European Criminal Records Information System)
- EES (Entry-Exit System, a new system being set up for ETIAS)
If an application is matched to any of the information held on these considerable databases, the application will be subject to a manual check by either the ETIAS National Unit or the ETIAS Central Unit.
Application Decision – The process for deciding on whether to issue an ETIAS or deny an ETIAS is very quick. Once you receive approval, it will be valid for three years from the date of issue, or when your passport expires, whichever comes sooner.
- Approval – Once an application has been submitted it will be immediately checked. A decision to grant the ETIAS can happen within minutes, and the ETIAS will be electronically attached to the applicant’s passport.
- Denial – If the applicant is denied an ETIAS, they will receive not only the reason for the denial but also the information on which authority or country decided against the ETIAS being issued.
- Further Checks – If the system flags an applicant as needing further investigation then their application will be passed over to an ETIAS official who will conduct further research. The applicant will be informed within 96 hours if their application has been approved or denied.
- Annulment or Revocation of ETIAS – If, at any stage, an application is found to have been submitted fraudulently, or if the applicant’s situation has changed, their ETIAS can be revoked. The annulment or revocation of ETIAS will be performed by the authorities in the country in which the traveler first lands.
Travel – Once approved, the ETIAS can be used for travel relating to tourism, business or transit. It is important to remember that even if you are just traveling through Europe en route to your final destination, you will still need an ETIAS, even if you will only be there for a connecting flight.
- Boarding – All travelers must have an ETIAS before traveling to Europe. Travel providers will be obliged to check all passengers prior to their boarding by land, sea or air. If the traveler does not have a valid ETIAS, they will be refused entry to the transportation.
- Arrival – Once travelers enter the Schengen zone, border guards will decide whether to admit them based on the information in the EES, the new Entry-Exit system. The travel documents of all travelers must also be in order. As a fully comprehensive check on travelers, even their disposition at the border can influence whether they are granted or denied passage across the border.
ETIAS for eligible travelers
Step 1: ETIAS application
This step takes no more than 10 minutes and examples of data requested are:
- Personal information
- Travel documents, e.g. passport
- Member state in which first intending to stay
- Questions pertaining to criminal record, prior visits to conflict zones, banishment from a Member State and any return rulings
- In case of applications by proxy, identity of the person or company represented by the person making the application
Step 2: Payment
All applicants aged between 18 and 70 pay the fee applicable. All such revenue goes to the EU budget.
Step 3: Automatic progression to application
The automatic application process involves checking the data provided against SIS/VIS/EUROPOL DATA/SLTD & TDAWN (Interpol), EURODAC and ETIAS databases. In the case of any hits, the information will be manually processed by staff of the ETIAS Central and ETIAS National unit(s).
Step 4: Response to applicants
Successful applications are usually received within minutes. Travel authorisation is valid for 3 years or until the travel document expires.
Refusals must be lodged within four weeks and can be appealed. Any refusal must be justified, and information must be given on the process involved and the resultant decision.
Step 5: Boarding
For air, land and sea travel: Carriers check for valid travel authorisation. At land borders, ETIAS application request can be made at the application cubicles.
Step 6: Check at Schengen area border crossing point
Border Guard checks EES and valid ETIAS authorisation in order to make a decision.
Applicants are either authorised entry or denied.