By mid-2025, changes are set to take place for visa-free travel to Europe, affecting travelers from over 60 countries and territories.
The European Union (EU) will launch the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) in May 2025.
Implementing the EU’s new travel authorization system will be gradual over a period of 12 months, according to the timeline released on 24 November 2023.
Improved security through ETIAS
EU’s new digital travel permit will require citizens who do not need a visa to visit the Schengen Area to obtain an ETIAS before their trip.
ETIAS is not a visa but a security clearance for short-term visitors.
It is part of the EU’s efforts to identify potential threats or health risks by screening visitors in advance.
ETIAS also aims to make travel to Europe more accessible while securing its borders.
Travelers can apply for an ETIAS on one platform. It will only take about 10 minutes to complete.
An application will cost €7 and be valid for three years, allowing the holder multiple short trips to the Schengen area.
To apply, travelers must provide personal details passport info, and answer health, security, and immigration questions. Biometric data will not be required.
In most cases, applicants will receive their ETIAS within minutes.
Similar entry requirements for visa-free nationals exist in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
The United Kingdom (UK) also recently launched its Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) for visa-exempt travelers.
ETIAS’s gradual 12-month enforcement
The EU will gradually roll out ETIAS over a year or 12 months to help travelers adjust to the new system and minimize disruption.
The gradual rollout will also allow authorities to monitor its impact before the system becomes mandatory.
According to the timeline released by the EU, there will be two phases: transitional and grace periods.
After the launch of ETIAS in May 2025, there will be a six-month transitional period.
During the transitional period, travelers should apply for their ETIAS travel authorization before traveling to the Schengen Area.
However, travelers who do not carry an ETIAS will not be denied entry if they meet all other entry requirements.
After the transition period, a grace period will take effect for another six months.
During the grace period, travelers must have an ETIAS when visiting any country within the Schengen area.
All travelers who do not have an ETIAS travel authorization will be denied entry at the border.
The only exemption during the grace period is for visitors traveling to Europe for the first time after the ETIAS transitional period.
These first-time travelers will be allowed entry, provided they meet all other entry requirements.
Innovating European travel
ETIAS, the EU’s Entry-Exit System (EES), along with the UK ETA, will soon transform European travel, making it more secure and more convenient.
Initially slated for 2021, the EU pushed back the ETIAS rollout for several reasons.
One of the setbacks includes complications presented by the Olympic Games to be held from 26 July to 11 August 2024.
Another is the delay of the EES, which is now scheduled to take effect late in 2024.
The EES will require travelers from outside the EU to provide identity and travel documents and undergo biometric checks for short visits to the Schengen area.
Recently, the UK, no longer a member of the EU, expressed concerns about possible delays at entry points arising from EES and ETIAS implementation.
Once the ETIAS is operational, citizens who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Area will have to obtain travel authorization before their trip.
Similarly, the UK will require visa-exempt nationals to have an ETA before coming to the UK.
The UK ETA is already operational for citizens of Qatar. It will soon be open to citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council member countries in 2024.
By 2024, the British government expects all nationals who do not need a visa to visit the UK to apply for an ETA before their trip.