If you're planning on traveling to Europe for business in the near future, you'll need to know about Etias. Etias is a program meant to make traveling without a visa easier -- while still reducing terrorism and preventing other issues related to border control.
But how exactly does it work? And what do you need to know as a business traveler?
1. The Basics of Etias
Etias stands for European Travel Information and Authorisation System, and it's designed for visa-exempt travelers to the European Union and the Schengen Area (except Ireland). If you're familiar with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) in the United States, Etias is quite similar -- except it's designed for travel to European countries.
Etias is expected to launch in 2022, but it won't be required of all travelers until 2023. That gives you a bit of time to learn more about Etias and apply for one (if you need one) before traveling for business.
2. Participating Countries
When Etias fully launches, most countries in the E.U. will require a valid Etias when you arrive at their borders. These include: Austria, Belgium, the 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.
If you can currently enter the E.U. zone without a visa, you'll need to have an Etias approval before visiting these countries. There are currently 63 countries whose citizens and nationals can enter the E.U. without a visa.
3. The Purpose of Etias
The main purpose of the Etias is to improve security without making international travel challenging for citizens of countries that don't currently require visas to visit. With electronic application approval, the E.U. can automatically review all people intending to enter the area -- and flag individuals who present a potential security threat. In time, this system is expected to reduce the prevalence of crime and prevent terrorist attacks.
There are some additional benefits as well, such as:
- Streamlining application times and improving travel simplicity. The Etias system, if it works as planned, should make application processing times much faster and improve simplicity for applicants.
- Reducing bureaucratic complexity. The automatic application processing should also serve to reduce bureaucratic complexity, minimizing the costs associated with the system while still achieving security goals.
- Mitigating irregular migration. With Etias in place, irregular migration will be much more difficult for individuals.
- Improving visa liberalization. At the same time, the E.U. gets to foster further visa liberalization, ultimately making travel to its constituent countries easier and more accessible.
4. How to Apply for Etias
If you're planning on visiting a participating country, you'll need to complete an online application to verify your eligibility. You'll also need to be between the ages of 18 and 70, and you'll need to pay a €7 fee. The Etias electronic system is designed to process most applications automatically; after scouring electronic databases, the system can provide you with a near-immediate response. As long as you're not flagged as a potential security threat, you'll be approved for travel within minutes. However, some cases may take up to 30 days.
Once you're approved in this system, your travel authorization will be valid for up to 3 years.
The application will prompt you for several pieces of information, including:
- Personal identity and biometrics. For starters, you'll need to provide some details about your personal identity and personal history. You'll need to provide your name, date of birth, and other basic information about yourself.
- Citizenship information. You'll also need to provide your proof of citizenship.
- Address and contact information. As you might expect, you'll also need to provide your home address, email address, and phone number.
- Education and work experience. The application will also prompt you for some information on your education and previous work experience, for background checking purposes.
- Travel plans. You'll need to explain where you're going, why you're going there, and how long you're going to stay.
- Background and eligibility questions. You may also need to answer some miscellaneous questions about your personal background and travel eligibility; for example, you may be asked if you've visited certain countries in the recent past.
- Proof of relationships. In some cases, you may also be prompted to submit proof of relationship and/or a residence card.
Are You Ready for Etias?
If you're traveling for business or tourism in the next year or so, an Etias authorization may not be required of you. After that, you should plan on having your Etias authorization before making any travel plans.
Fortunately, as you've seen in this guide, the application process is short and simple -- and if you don't have a criminal background or a sketchy history, you'll probably be approved automatically in a matter of minutes.