Non-EU nationals exempt from visa requirements will have to get an authorisation before travelling to the EU, under new rules backed by European Parliament.
The new European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), which should be operational in 2021, will allow for advanced checks on visa-free travellers and those considered to pose a security, irregular migration or epidemic risk will be denied access.
Nationals of the more than 60 countries and territories exempt from visa requirements to enter the EU will have to fill in an electronic form prior to their intended travel with their personal data (including name, date and place of birth, sex and nationality), travel document information (validity, country of issue), home address and contact information, and the European country of first intended entry.
The travel authorisation will cost 7 euros – free for travellers under 18 and those over 70 years of age-, and it will be valid for three years, or until the travel document expires.
Questions on criminal record and trips to conflict zones
The applicant will also need to inform authorities of any convictions for serious criminal offenses (such as terrorism, sexual exploitation of children, trafficking in human beings or drugs, murder and rape), about stays in specific war or conflict zones and of any prior administrative decisions requiring them to leave a country, all over the last ten years.
In the case of terrorist offences, the period will extend to the previous twenty years, and additional clarification on the date and country of the conviction will be required.
Additional checks to assess potential risk
Each application will automatically be checked against all relevant databases to verify, among other issues, whether the travel document used has been reported lost or stolen and whether the person is wanted for arrest. The vast majority of applicants will get their authorisation almost immediately.
If there is one or several hits when verifying the documents, or a positive reply to any of the questions on criminal records, trips to conflict areas and orders to leave a country, the data will be manually checked and the security, migration or epidemic risk individually assessed.
Kinga Gál (EPP, HU), Parliament’s rapporteur, said: “The ETIAS will bridge the existing information gap on visa-free travellers, by assessing whether they constitute a security, illegal migration or high epidemic risk before they arrive at the external border. This new system will significantly contribute to enhancing security for EU citizens. It is therefore an important step forward towards stronger and smarter information systems for borders and security.”
The Regulation was passed with 494 votes in favour, 115 against and 30 abstentions. Following Parliament’s green light, the legislation will have to be formally adopted by the Council of Ministers and then published in the Official Journal. The aim is for it to be operational in 2021.