From 2021, nationalities who currently enjoy visa-free access to the Schengen Area will need to obtain an ETIAS Visa Waiver. Since the EU announced the launch of ETIAS there has been a lot of confusion about what this will actually mean for travelers.
ETIAS will not be a traditional visa. Eligible travelers will not need to go to an embassy or consulate to complete the visa application. The ETIAS Visa Waiver Program will be similar to other visa waiver programs such as ESTA, the US version.
What are the main differences between a visa waiver and a standard visa?
For travelers, the key differences between normal visas and visa waivers are how the application works and the validity periods. The other big difference is how governments share intelligence and process applications.
The applications for visa waivers are very quick and simple to complete. Applicants complete the entire process online, eliminating the need to go to an embassy or consulate. The ETIAS Visa Waiver application will include a series of questions, requiring applicants to enter their full name, date of birth, address, passport details, travel plans, and other background information.
ETIAS Visa Waivers will be valid for periods of 3 years and will allow visitors to spend a maximum of 90 days in the Schengen Area in any 180-day period. This is a potentially 540 days over the 3-year duration. Traditional visas, such as the current Schengen Visa, are generally only valid for a singular trip of a period of weeks or months.
The eligible nationalities for ETIAS will be those who can currently travel to the Schengen Area for limited periods without a visa. These are the countries who share intelligence with the EU about terrorism and other security-related issues. This allows governments to quickly screen applicants using security databases, and approve the visa waivers.
Why is the EU launching the ETIAS Visa Waiver Program?
The EU made the decision to implement the ETIAS Visa Waiver program following a string of high-profile terrorist attacks on major European cities. ETIAS is a part of a wider effort to strengthen border control and prevent more attacks.
The ETIAS Visa Waiver Program will allow the EU to identify anyone who poses a security risk and prevent them from entering the Schengen Area. Travelers from eligible countries will not be able to enter without an approved visa waiver.
The vast majority of applications will be quickly processed and sent to travelers by email. Very few applications will be rejected for security reasons.
When will the ETIAS Visa program launch? How will travelers obtain one?
ETIAS has not been launched yet. At the moment, some nationalities can enter without a visa and others need to obtain a Schengen Visa.
ETIAS will launch in 2021 though the EU has not decided the exact date yet. Once it becomes available it will be a requirement for travelers from all the eligible countries.
Travelers will just need to complete the application form with all the required information and pay a fee using a credit or debit card. Applications will not take long to process and travelers will receieve approved visa waivers by email.