Reasons for the latest delay are not clear but there are concerns of the chaos it could cause at the border if preparations have not been completed in time. Some land crossings and ports do not have the level of infrastructure required to incorporate ETIAS within their current systems, which could lead to significant delays. At the present time, the EU Entry/Exit System (EES) that will work alongside ETIAS remains on course to launch in November 2023 but roll out of this scheme could also be pushed back.
Below we explore these schemes in further detail and explain how they will affect European travel once eventually in force.
What is ETIAS?
The EU currently permits citizens of certain countries, including the UK, to enter the EU without requiring a visa. Individuals from visa-exempt countries can cross the borders using only their passport, in a relatively smooth and straightforward process.
This freedom will come to an end once ETIAS is implemented. It will then become mandatory for nationals who do not have to apply for a Schengen visa in advance, to obtain pre-travel authorisation to enter the EU and the four Schengen countries (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland & Liechtenstein).
How does ETIAS work?
Individuals will be required to submit authorisation applications online or via a mobile app before they leave their country of origin. Applicants will enter basic information such as their personal details, criminal and travel history and this information will then be processed and examined against various EU databases for security purposes.
It is expected that a large majority of applications will be granted within minutes. However, if the system determines that further checks are required, it could potentially take up to 30 days for an application to be decided. Anyone with periods of overstaying, particularly in the Schengen area, could experience a longer waiting time for a decision.
One particular concern relates to individuals with a criminal record. Applicants will be required to disclose their criminal history and this raises many questions regarding how previous offences will be treated. Only those who have a serious criminal history are expected to be refused, but those with a criminal history will likely face delays before a decision is made on their authorisation.
Applicants whose authorisation applications are refused will need to apply for a Schengen Visa. This can be obtained from the embassy of the nation they wish to enter but can take several weeks to secure.
If the application is approved, the authorisation lasts for 3 years or until an applicant's passport expires, (whichever occurs first), and will need to be renewed to allow travel into the EU beyond this date.
Each application will cost a total of 7 Euros (approximately £6) for 18 to 70 year olds. Those outside this age range will not be required to pay.
What is EU/ Entry/Exit System (EES)?
EES is will run alongside ETIAS, but is a distinct and separate scheme. The system is designed to record the location of non-EU nationals each time they cross a border within the Schengen area.
This is achieved by the electronic self-scanning of passports (similar to e-gates) before movement across the border is permitted. It is designed to replace the manual review and stamping of passports and will record the date of entry and exit for each traveller and hold records of any previous refusals. This will save significant time at the border for travellers as manual checks will be avoided.
What is the purpose of the schemes?
The aim of these schemes is to enhance the security of the EU and uphold the Schengen area's rules on short-stays. Currently, visitors from the UK and other non-EU countries, are only permitted to stay within the Schengen area for 90 days within a 180-day period.
By incorporating a pre–travel screening (ETIAS) and automated registration scheme (EES), authorities believe that individuals who pose a risk to the EU will be denied entry, and those who fail to abide by the short-stay rules will be easier to locate and identify.
What should businesses in the UK do to prepare?
Businesses with globally mobile workforces need to have the introduction of these schemes on their radar Before ETIAS launches, It will be important for businesses to communicate to their UK workers that they must obtain travel authorisation before business trips to the continent. Businesses should consider putting in place a communication strategy to ensure the message is fully conveyed, to avoid last minute panics in the airport.
Any workers who have an adverse criminal or travel history should be encouraged to flag this in advance. They may needed further time to secure their authorisation as their applications are likely to experience delays.
The introduction of the EES also means that UK workers need a reminder that they must stay within the 90 day in any 180 day period when travelling to the Schengen area. As entry and exit dates will now be recorded, any periods of overstaying could impact on ETIAS applications and future travel to Europe.
The delay of the roll out of the schemes to 2024 has allowed businesses more time to prepare for these changes. People teams should use this time wisely to ensure that their employees have the knowledge they need to avoid unnecessary disruption.
With thanks to Trainee Solicitor, Bayley Brigg, author of this article.
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