You’ve probably seen the headlines announcing that ETIAS, the EU’s new visa waiver scheme that requires British tourists to pay a small fee before visiting Europe is a “punishment” for Brexit.
Whilst it sounds like quite a sensational story do these claims hold water?
We’re going to look at this claim to see if it’s true or not. We will also explain what ETIAS is and why it’s being introduced as well as outlining the EU visa requirements for UK citizens before it launches in 2022.
Is ETIAS a Result of Brexit?
Quite simply no, ETIAS is not a direct result of Brexit. Instead, it is a new travel authorization designed to screen passengers before they arrive in a Schengen country.
Whilst ETIAS was proposed in the European Parliament shortly after the UK’s referendum to leave the EU in 2016, it was suggested as part of a plan to improve border security.
Former EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, said at the time: “We need to know who is crossing our borders. By November (2016), we will propose an automated system to determine who will be allowed to travel to Europe. This way we will know who is travelling to Europe before they even get here.”
The UK itself was broadly favourable to such a proposal before it committed to leaving the EU. According to the Guardian David Cameron, the Prime Minister at the time, and the then Home Secretary (and later Prime Minister) Theresa May had voiced their support for ETIAS months before the referendum.
Why Has ETIAS Been Created?
ETIAS, or European Travel Information and Authorisation System to give its full name, is a new initiative designed to protect the borders of the Schengen Area. This zone covering most of mainland Europe allows people in one country to visit another Schengen country without border checks.
Of course, security and border integrity are vitally important to members of the Schengen Area. ETIAS was therefore proposed to modernize and improve these two features of the passport-free zone.
Is ETIAS a New Type of Visa?
No, ETIAS is definitely NOT a visa. It is a visa waiver, an electronic travel authorisation used to confirm the identities of passengers before they enter the EU. It allows passengers to enter the Schengen area quickly and safely.
Who Needs an ETIAS Visa Waiver?
Visitors to the EU Schengen Area from 60 visa-exempt countries will need an ETIAS visa waiver when it becomes mandatory in 2023.
The UK is one of the countries that this will apply to. It will also affect foreign citizens with Canadian, Australian, Japanese and US passports.
Do I Need to Go to An Embassy to Get an ETIAS Visa Waiver?
No, getting an ETIAS visa waiver can be done at home online. To get the electronic authorisation, you just need to fill out an online application form.
Once, you have completed the application and it is approved you will be sent confirmation of your visa waiver via email. This is expected to only take a few hours, although you’re advised to apply no less than 72 hours before travel just in case of any issues with your application.
From then, the ETIAS authorisation will be electronically connected to your passport. You can also print out the email confirmation as extra proof when you travel.
Will it Cost Me Money to Get ETIAS Authorisation?
However, once approved the ETIAS can be used for multiple trips during its 3-year validity.
You’ll only need a new ETIAS visa waiver if your passport expires or has to be replaced and when the ETIAS authorisation reaches its own expiry date. During its validity though, you can use it to travel around the Schengen Area for up to 90 days at a time within a 6-month period.
Do British Citizens Need a Visa to Go to an EU or Schengen Country?
You’ll be pleased to know that for tourist trips and short term visits for business or education you won’t need a visa to enter the EU or a Schengen country. However, since the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, there are some scenarios where British citizens will need a visa.
For example, it will be necessary to get a Schengen visa to live (for periods of over 3 months at a time) in EU countries. You will also need a valid work permit from the national government of the country you will live in if you want to get a job in any of the Schengen countries.
As you can see ETIAS is going to lead to a few small changes in the way people travel to the EU. However, don’t believe the hype that Brexit led to its creation. This is a much wider scale project that affects more countries than just the UK and is primarily driven by the aim of creating better security for the international bloc.
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Feature image credit DDurich via Getty Images/Canva