From the soaring calderas in Santorini to the whitewashed villages in Southern Spain, Europe is a land like no other.
The region is filled with diversity and beautiful sights, and it's also easy to access from most areas of the world. Well, at least it was...
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you're planning a trip around Europe or the EU soon, you'll need to factor the ETIAS program into the planning process.
Starting in 2024, with the kick-off of ETIAS, travel to Europe will change big time. About 1.4 billion travelers from over 60 countries, including the US, Canada, and Australia, will need permission to visit many European places.
These are all travelers who, in the past, could enter these European countries visa-free! 😭
At first glance, it sounds complicated. More paperwork. Longer waiting times and delays.
But don’t panic because I’ve got your back. Since I'm currently planning my next stint in Europe, I've done a deep dive into what this program is and what we can expect when it rolls out in 2024.
With this guide, you won't need to stop packing for Europe, and you'll be more prepared for when you do decide to visit!
What Is ETIAS?
ETIAS, the European Travel Information and Authorization System, is a new entry requirement for visa-exempt nationals. It's not the same as a visa and is more like the ESTA or eTA programs in the US and Canada, respectively.
Now not all European countries will be implementing ETIAS. You'll need to apply if you want to plan a visit to one of 30 European countries, mainly located in the Schengen Zone.
The Schengen area is the world's largest visa-free zone, consisting of over 27 countries—many of which are part of the EU. The ETIAS program is designed to help better protect these collective countries' borders.
To get into the nitty gritty details... what should you expect the ETIAS travel authorization to look like? Well, it'll be electronically linked to your passport and remain valid for up to 3 years or until your passport expires.
If you need to get a new passport during this timeframe, you’ll also have to apply for a new ETIAS authorization.
Which Countries Do You Need ETIAS Authorization to Enter?
30 European countries require visa-exempt travelers to get an ETIAS digital-waiver authorization. These include:
- Czech Republic
Who Should Apply?
The next crucial question to answer is, do you actually need to apply for an ETIAS to be granted entry to Europe? With the ETIAS start date in 2024, travelers from over 60 visa-exempt countries must apply for this travel authorization program.
This includes Canadians, Americans, and Australians.
And if you're a citizen of the other visa-exempt countries on the list, you'll also need to apply for an ETIAS travel authorization. I won't list these countries here as it could change. But some of the other visa-exempt countries needing ETIAS are Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, and Singapore.
Applying for an ETIAS travel authorization is a reasonably straightforward process. You’ll need to fill out an application form on the official website or through the ETIAS mobile application. I'll go into more detail about the full process below.
How Long Can You Be in Europe With an ETIAS?
The ETIAS visa waiver allows you to enter the 30 countries, mostly Schengen member states, for short-term stays. This program defines "short-term stays" as up to 90 days within a 180-day period.
This means you could stay for up to 90 consecutive days, or a total of 90 days, over multiple trips. At least, it seems like there'll be some flexibility under this new program.
How Much Does an ETIAS Cost?
To apply for the ETIAS travel authorization, it costs approximately US$8 or €7. Selected travelers may not have to pay the fee.
For instance, applicants under 18 or over 70 years old are exempt from paying the ETIAS fee.
Family members of EU citizens or non-EU nationals who have a legal right to roam through the European Union are also excluded.
What about how to pay the ETIAS fee? It can be paid online using a valid credit card or debit card.
Applying for the ETIAS Travel Authorization
Now you’re a bit more familiar with the process, let’s get into how to get an ETIAS.
As I mentioned above, you'll need to visit the ETIAS official website to apply or use the app. No applications are currently being accepted.
When filling out the application form digitally, you'll need to provide the specific information:
- Personal information including name, surname, date, and place of birth, nationality, home address, parent's first names, email address, and phone number
- Travel document details
- Passport (valid for at least 3 months after your intended departure)
- Details of your level of education and current job
- Details of your intended travel plans and stay in any countries requiring ETIAS
- Details of any criminal convictions and past travels to war-inflicted zones
When you apply for an ETIAS travel authorization, you’ll be required to state the first country you intend to visit.
It should be a quick process as long as you have all this information ready beforehand. The official website says it'll take travelers 10 minutes, on average, to complete an application.
If you want to apply for an ETIAS on someone’s behalf, you can do so provided that you’ve both signed a declaration of representation form. Travel agencies will also be able to fill out ETIAS.
When Should You Apply?
The ETIAS official website advises travelers to apply for ETIAS before booking flights, accommodations, and other travel-related tickets.
Most travelers start planning well in advance, which means you should have enough time to apply for an ETIAS and book all the necessary transportation and stays.
But if you're a last-minute planner, take my advice. I'd recommend applying at least 2 to 3 months before your planned trip. This is because you want to make sure the entire process finishes, you get your ETIAS, and you can book cheap flights with enough time!
How Long Does It Take to Process an ETIAS Application?
That's the next good question you should know the answer to. I estimated the time above, 2 to 3 months, considering the maximum time it would take to process an ETIAS application.
Most travelers will find the authorization process quick and convenient, with applications typically processed within minutes. It's a breeze for the majority of people.
But, it's essential to be aware of potential delays.
If additional information is required, you might have to wait up to 4 days for a decision. In cases where even more information is needed, that wait time can extend up to 14 days.
There's also the rare event when you're asked to attend an interview. If this happens, then the whole process could stretch to as much as 30 days.
So, if you have Europe on your horizon, it's wise to plan ahead and allow for potential delays in the ETIAS authorization process.
Who Doesn’t Need to Apply for ETIAS
If you meet the following criteria, you won’t need to organize an ETIAS travel authorization:
- A national of a European country requiring ETIAS
- A national of any of these countries who needs a visa to visit any of the EU countries requiring ETIAS
- A national of the United Kingdom who’s a beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement
- A citizen of Andorra, San Marino, Monaco, the Vatican City State, or Ireland
- A person with a residence permit or residence card issued by any European country
- A refugee, a stateless person, or a person who doesn't have any nationality
- A holder of a uniform visa
- A person with a national long-stay visa
- A person with a local border traffic permit
- A holder of a diplomatic, service, or special passport
Other Important ETIAS FAQs
When Does ETIAS Go Into Effect?
There is no specific date right now for when this program goes live. But all the reports say it will come into effect sometime in 2024.
Do You Need to Have an Upcoming Trip to Apply?
Not necessarily! Yes, you do need to put the first country you're visiting when you apply to an ETIAS. But, once you receive your approval, you can change your travel plans to go to any of the 30 countries covered by the ETIAS waiver program.
Can I Submit a Group Application?
Unfortunately not. You must apply individually, linking your application with a singular travel identification document.
How Will You Receive Your Approval?
Once you've applied online for ETIAS, you'll get 2 emails.
The first one will let you know that your application has been submitted successfully.
After they've processed your application, a second email will come your way, giving you the final decision on your authorization—whether it's an approval... or not.
What Happens If You're Refused an ETIAS?
If this happens, you do have options!
You could appeal the decision. And your appeal will be reviewed by the same country officials who initially reviewed your application.
You could also apply for a brand new ETIAS. A refusal of one doesn't automatically mean you'll be refused again.
There's also another option if you need to travel urgently...
What is an ETIAS Travel Authorization With Limited Validity?
An ETIAS travel authorization with limited validity can be granted to those who need to travel urgently and meet the following 2 criteria:
- Travel is required due to humanitarian reasons or to fulfill a critical obligation
- You expect your ETIAS application could be refused, or your previous authorization wasn't accepted or has already been refused, annulled, or revoked.
How Long Will Your ETIAS Authorization Last?
An ETIAS will be valid for up to 3 years. Or if you switch up your travel document.
What Do You Need to Bring to Get Into the EU?
While printing the ETIAS confirmation isn't necessary, carrying the passport associated with your authorization is crucial.
You should double-check that the details on your passport align with those on your ETIAS and make sure your passport will be valid for at least 3 months beyond your departure date.
Can I Get Refused Entry Even With an ETIAS?
Even with a valid ETIAS authorization, entry into European countries requiring ETIAS isn't guaranteed. All travelers must still pass border checks, and entry can be refused if you don't meet the necessary conditions.
Do You Need a Visa If You Have an ETIAS?
In most cases, if you need an ETIAS, you won't need a visa. But the same goes for vice versa—if you need a visa, you won't be able to enter with an ETIAS. Depending on your reason for visiting, you may need a specific visa to travel to Europe. European visas often include working holiday visas, student visas, or other long-term visas.
Your Europe Trip's Still in Reach...
Now that you’re familiar with the details of ETIAS, you can start to craft your ideal travel experience for you, your family, and your friends.