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Europe’s new visa-waiver scheme will cover Australians

November 1, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The European Union is finalising a visa-waiver system, similar to the US model, which will apply to nationals of 60 countries including Australia and New Zealand.

Called the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), it will cost EUR 10 (about AUD 15) and it will cover travel in the Schengen area, the zone of 26 European countries which have agreed to abolish their internal borders “for the free and unrestricted movement of people, goods, services, and capital”.

ETIAS gained formal approval from the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs a week or so ago.

In its latest progress report on ETIAS, the European Council acknowledged that “recent terrorist attacks and uncontrolled migration flows to the EU” had made strengthening the EU’s external borders a priority. The EU wants to “ensure internal security and to preserve freedom of movement in the Schengen area.”

Schengen Countries

“The European Commission is therefore proposing to set up an automated system that would gather information on visa-exempt travellers prior to their arrival, in order to determine any irregular migration, security or public-health risks associated with them. The proposal follows similar models already existing in the USA, Canada and Australia, among others.”

The Schengen area does not include the United Kingdom and never has. Britain has enough problems with illegal migration already and never sought to join Schengen. Schengen members are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

According to the European Council: “ETIAS will help improve our security and protect our citizens. It will require all those who do not need a visa to be checked before they travel to the Schengen area. Anyone posing a risk can be prevented from coming.”

The Council says ETIAS will allow for advance checks and, if necessary, deny travel authorisation to visa-exempt third-country nationals travelling to the Schengen area.

“It will help improve internal security, prevent illegal immigration, limit public health risks and reduce delays at the borders by identifying persons who may pose a risk in one of these areas before they arrive at the external borders.

“The system will apply to visa-exempt third country nationals, as well as those who are exempt from the airport transit visa requirement. They will need to obtain a travel authorisation before their trip, via an online application.

“The information submitted in each application will be automatically processed against other EU databases to determine whether there are grounds to refuse a travel authorisation. When no hits or elements requiring further analysis are identified, the travel authorisation will be issued automatically within a short time. This is expected to be the case for the large majority of applications.”

ETIAS authorisations should be issued or denied within 96 hours.

“Before boarding, air carriers, sea carriers and international carriers transporting groups overland by coach will need to check whether third country nationals subject to the travel authorisation requirement are in possession of a valid travel authorisation.

“The travel authorisation will not provide an automatic right of entry or stay; it is the border guard who will take the final decision.

“A travel authorisation will be valid for three years or until the end of validity of the travel document registered during application, whichever comes first.”

Australia and New Zealand are among a raft of 60 countries whose nationals will need to apply for an ETIAS prior to entering the Schengen Area.

In order to apply for an ETIAS, applicants need the following:

  • A valid passport issued by a visa-exempt country.
  • A valid credit card to pay the application fee of 10 euros. (Applicants under the age of 18 do not need to pay.)
  • Contact information including the physical address of their permanent residence, phone number and email address.

Applicants will be able to apply for an ETIAS directly online. Once an application is submitted, it will be screened across various systems to determine whether an authorisation can be granted or not.

The EU says: “If your application is approved, you will receive an authorisation directly by email. In case of denial, you will receive an email explaining the reason of refusal.”

The ETIAS system is not in force yet. The EU is still working on it and will give advance notice before implementation.

Written by Peter Needham

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