Even before Covid-19, the travel rules across ‘European’ countries were complicated: some countries are in the EU; some want to be, but haven’t been allowed in yet; some belong to the EU+ area; and most belong to the Schengen area (but not all) which offers free movement across borders of people amongst member countries.
Covid-19 travel rules and restrictions have added to the complexity. The EU offers recommendations for countries to follow (the current Safe List of countries is a good example) and the EU Digital Covid Certificate has been successfully brought in by all European countries and is now spreading as far as the U.K. and as wide as New Zealand.
However, countries are not obligated to follow the same rules and many are currently using different rules to determine who can visit and who cannot–November’s guide to EU travel restrictions, vaccination and quarantine requirements offers a brief snapshot of the ever-moving feast.
And now there is one more layer of administration heading to Europe travel in 2022. Much like the U.S. has its ESTA scheme, the EU is bringing in a new visa-waiver scheme, as it aims for more coherence across countries with security issues (it is moving towards a European Security Union).
The new is called the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) and will oblige visitors from outside Europe to apply for a visa-waiver before arriving:
- it was supposed to come into being in January 2021, but had to be delayed until 2022 when it will be phased in gradually, to come into effect fully by the end of 2022.
- you will need an ETIAS form if you are visiting any of the 26 Schengen area countries. That means 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.
- There are 5 EU countries that are not currently in the ETIAS scheme–Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania, where travelers will not need to apply before entry.
- it will cost €7 per registration but much like the ESTA, it will last for a set period of time, in this case 3 years, for anyone visiting between the ages of 18 and 70. If someone’s passport expires within the three years, they would need to apply for a new ETIAS visa-waiver document.
- travelers from 63 countries will need to apply for an ETIAS form before arriving in a Schengen area country, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the U.S., the U.K. and the UAE.
- Each application is checked against data held by Interpol, Europol and Schengen databases. The EU expects, according to The Telegraph, that it will approve 95% of applications and for most cases, approval will arrive in minutes.
Whilst there are many companies already offering to provide an ETIAS service for travelers, people can wait until the system becomes live on the European Commission website and apply directly.