Europe: 2021: New travel authorization required for non EU visitors

As of 2021, citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, plus citizens of 53 other countries, who are planning to travel to Europe will need to apply online for a travel authorization through the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). This authorization is mandatory for citizens of countries who currently do not require visas to enter Europe. The passport holders of the affected countries will require an ETIAS waiver to travel to Europe for the purposes of tourism, business or transit for a short 90 days stay in any 180-day period

Starting in 2021, the European Commission will roll out a U.S. style electronic travel authorisation system for visitors from countries that are currently not part of the EU. These visitors have been granted visa free access to the EU and Schengen member countries through virtue of their good track record on security issues and, thus, have not been seen as a threat to EU security.

ETIAS stands for EU Travel Information and Authorisation System. The system will check the security credentials and charge a fee to travellers visiting EU member countries for business, tourism, medical or transit purposes. The current EU visa application and vetting procedures for entering the Schengen area depend only upon the citizenship of the visitor and are cost-free. The ETIAS, like the ESTA, will streamline this visa process for those people who do not need a visa at present but will undergo additional security checks prior to allowing entry into the EU. The ETIAS travel authorisation will be mandatory for citizens of countries who currently do not require visas to enter Europe including the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Learn more about the various aspects and implications of ETIAS by visiting the FAQ.


Currently, there are a significant number of countries whose citizens are permitted to enter the EU and Schengen member countries without the need to obtain a visa. These visitors are limited to a 3 month stays and their visit is supposed to be for the purposes of tourism or business. There are restrictions whereby visa free travellers are not permitted to work or to study. However, these travellers will require an ETIAS to travel to Europe for tourism, business or transit purposes.

Starting January 01 2021, Travellers that currently do not need a visa to visit EU member countries will require an ETIAS. The ETIAS proposal was finalised November 2016. By implementing ETIAS, the EU Commission intends to improve the security of the Schengen area primarily requiring these visa-free travellers to obtain travel authorisation and undergo various security checks prior to their arrival to the EU. The ETIAS would ensure possible security threats are identified and dealt with outside EU borders and ensures citizens remain safe from such threats inside the EU.
How will ETIAS work?

Launch – The ETIAS has a target launch date of January 01 2021.

Application – The ETIAS must be applied for online prior to arrival to the EU. Each eligible traveller to the EU will require an ETIAS.

Form fields – The following data will be required for each ETIAS application: personal biometric data (e.g. name, gender, data of birth, etc), passport or travel document information, EU member state of entry, background questions on an applicant’s health, criminal record as well as previous EU immigration history.

Fee – The cost of an ETIAS is €7, however, individuals under the age of 18 will not need to pay the fee.

Application process – Upon submission, each application will be checked across SIS / VIS / EUROPOL DATA / SLTD (Interpol) / EURODAC / ECRIS etc), the ETIAS screening rules as well as the ETIAS watchlist. If the application is matched to information from any of these databases, the application will undergo manual processing by the ETIAS Central and / or ETIAS National Units.

Application Decision – Usually, a decision will be reached by the system within minutes. If an ETIAS application is approved, it will be issued for a period of three years or until the date of the applicant’s passport expiry, whichever date is sooner. If an ETIAS application is denied, the applicant will receive a reason for the refusal as well as information on the country or authority deciding against the ETIAS being approved.

Boarding – The ETIAS can only be used for transit, tourism and business travel. As ETIAS will be checked by carriers prior to a traveller boarding by air, land or sea. If an ETIAS is not approved, the traveller will not be allowed to board the travel vessel, be it an airplane, boat or bus.

Arrival at the EU – Upon entry into the Schengen zone, a border guard will make the decision on admitting a traveller based on the information in the EES system, the approved ETIAS, as well as the travel documents and disposition of the traveller.