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New controls for visa-free visitors to Schengen zone

The European Commission proposes a new European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). Its purpose is to strengthen pre-arrival security checks on visa-free travellers. This will affect visitors from Europe’s largest, well-established markets including the USA and Japan.

The intention is to assist with external border security and protect the freedom of movement within the Schengen zone. The Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans states that the system will be “easy, quick, cheap and effective.” The application process is expected to take no more than ten minutes. Each application will be processed against existing EU information systems. Once authorisation is provided it will be valid for 5 years.  

Tom Jenkins, ETOA’s chief executive commented: “Schengen is a success story which has transformed the visitor economy in Europe. With a single visa it has facilitated trouble-free cross-border travel within the zone. It is an example of a civilizing influence that has brought great commercial and cultural benefit. The reappearance of temporary controls reminds us that we cannot take this for granted. Europe remains a very safe destination.

ETIAS will be successful only if it improves the arrivals process for ETIAS holders in European gateways. It will require careful consultation and implementation.  

Cost must remain minimal: this cannot be allowed to become an excuse to tax visitors. The application process must be user-friendly and in the language of the applicant. There has to be a reciprocal offer of service; time spent in airport immigration zones must reduce for visa-free travellers who have been pre-cleared through the new system. The introduction of the ESTA regime for US-bound travellers caused an immediate drop-off in volume; we must avoid this with ETIAS. If it increases the number of origin markets on Schengen’s visa-free list, then this will be a long overdue and welcome development.

Above all, if implemented, ETIAS must be properly communicated and supported in Europe’s origin markets worldwide. ETOA will work with its partners and the Commission to that end.” 

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