Travellers from countries that currently enjoy visa-free travel throughout Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone face having to apply for a document similar to the US ESTA system, as the EU beefs up security checks.
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), which could apply to a post-Brexit Britain, will see visitors from 60 ‘visa-waiver’ countries including the US, Canada and Australia having to pay a €5 application fee for the travel document.
The authorisation, which the European Commission said will take no longer than 10 minutes and described as a “lighter more visitor-friendly regime” than a visa, will be valid for five years and for multiple trips. It will only apply to those 18 and over.
Nationals of the visa-free countries will still be able to travel without one but must obtain the authorisation prior to travel in the Schengen Area.
Whether British travellers will have to apply for an ETIAS depends on the negotiations of its existing visa requirements, which should become clearer once it triggers Article 50 and leaves the bloc.
The European Commission said the new system will “help identify persons who may pose an irregular migration or security risk before they arrive at the border and significantly enhance the security of the external borders”. It added that the ETIAS will also “bridge an existing information gap on visa-free travellers by gathering information that could be vital to member states.”
Security Union Commissioner Julian King said: "Terrorists and criminals don't care much for national borders. The only way to defeat them is by working together effectively. ETIAS will help do that: by spotting problem individuals and stopping them from coming, we'll enhance Europe's internal security."
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans added: "Securing our borders and protecting our citizens is our first priority. ETIAS will close an information gap by cross-checking visa exempt applicants' information against all our other systems. At the same time, the future ETIAS will be easy, quick, cheap and effective."