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EES and ETIAS: What are the big changes for travel in Europe?

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The Local ([email protected])
EES and ETIAS: What are the big changes for travel in Europe?
Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP

There are two changes due to come into effect which will affect travel in and out of the European Union for non-EU citizens such as Brits, Americans, Australians and Canadians. Here's how EES and ETIAS will affect you.

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Because Brussels loves jargon both of these are known by acronyms - EES and ETIAS - they are two separate systems but they are both scheduled to come into effect over the next two years. 

Here's what they will change; 

1: EES - Entry/Exit System

This doesn't change anything in terms of the visas or documents required for travel, or the rights of travellers, but it does change how the EU's and Schengen area's external borders are policed.

It's essentially a security upgrade, replacing the current system that relies on border guards with stamps with an electronic swipe in/swipe out system that will register more details such as immigration status.

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When - the start date has been pushed back several times, with the latest timetable for the introduction "between quarter three and quarter four of 2024" - in other words, once the Paris Olympics and Paralympics have finished.

Reporting in the UK media suggests Sunday, October 6th 2024 as the launch date, although this has not been confirmed by the European Commission. France's interior ministry says that the start date is "envisaged between the end of 2024 and the beginning of 2025".

Where - this is for the EU and Schengen area's external borders, so doesn't apply if you are travelling between France and Germany for example, but would apply if you enter any EU or Schengen zone country from a non-EU country eg crossing from the UK to France via Channel Tunnel or flying into Germany from the US.

What - Travellers will need to scan their passports or other travel document at an automated kiosk each time they cross an EU external border. It will not apply to foreign residents of EU countries or those with long stay visas.

When non-EU travellers first enter the Schengen/EU area the system will register their name, biometric data, and the date and place of entry and exit. Facial scans and fingerprint data will be taken and retained for three years after initial registration.

Many airports of course already have biometric passport scanners but they're only checking that your passport is valid and the photo matches your face.

The EES system also calculates how long you can stay within the EU, based on your rights of residency or your 90-day allowance, and also checks whether your passport has ever been flagged for immigration offences such as overstaying a visa.

Who - this is for non-EU nationals who are entering the EU as a visitor (rather than residents). The system scans your passport and will tell you how long you can stay for (based on the 90-allowance or the visa linked to the passport).

What about residents? Non EU nationals who live in an EU country and have a national residency card such as a carte de séjour in France or a TIE in Spain are not affected by this, since they have the right to unlimited stays within their country of residence.

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We asked the European Commission how the system works for residents and were told: "The Entry/Exit System will not apply to non-EU citizens holding a residence document or a residence permit. Their personal data will not be registered in the Entry/Exit System.

"It is enough if holders of such documents present them to the border guards to prove their status."

The Commission later clarified that non-EU citizens who are resident in an EU country should not use eGates or automatic scanners, but should instead head to the queue with an in-person guard (if available) where they can show both their passport and residency document.

However there's no suggestion those with permanent residency will lose their right of residency if they do go through the automatic gates when entering the EU because their residency status is guaranteed - as long as they can prove it with their permit. Although they could face the inconvenience of a few extra questions next time they travel.

What does this actually change?

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Apart from a more high-tech process at the border (and potentially big queues in Dover) there are likely to be two main effects of this.

For non-EU nationals who have residency in an EU country it could mean the end of the rather inconsistent process of passport stamping, which has been a particular issue for Brits since Brexit, with wildly inconsistent official practices by border guards that have frustrated many British residents of the EU and left them with incorrect stamps in their passports.

For visitors to the EU this tightens up application of the 90-day rule. It doesn't change the rule itself, but means that anyone attempting to over-stay or 'play' the system will instantly be spotted.

The European Commission's other stated aim is security, making it easier to spot security risks at the border. 

Will there be delays for non-EU travellers?

Several EU countries have raised fears about this, with the UK-France border a likely pressure point due to large numbers of travellers and limited processing space at ports like Dover, while budget airline Ryanair has also raised concerns about the implementation. 

Part of the reason for the delayed start date is to iron out potential problems. You can read the full report about fears over potential delays here.

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2: ETIAS - European Travel Information and Authorisation System

Who - If you live permanently in an EU country this does not affect you, neither does it affect people entering the EU with a visa (including a Schengen visa). It affects non-EU citizens who previously travelled visa free under the 90 days.

It therefore covers tourists, second-home owners, those on family visits or doing short-term work from countries including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

When - As with EES, this has also been postponed several times, it's entry is now scheduled for "quarter one to quarter two of 2025". 

What changes - Citizens of many non-EU countries including the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand can spend up to 90 days in every 180 in the EU or Schengen zone without needing a visa - the so-called '90 day rule'.

This is set to change - people are still entitled to spend up to 90 days in every 180, but the process will no-longer be completely admin free.

Instead, travellers will have to fill out an online application before they travel.

Once issued, the authorisation lasts for three years, so frequent travellers do not need to complete a new application every time but it must be renewed every three years.

For anyone who has travelled to the USA recently, the system is essentially similar to the ESTA visa required for short stays.

How much - Each application costs €7, but is free for under 18s and over 70s.

How - The application process is entirely online. The European Commission says that applications should be processed within minutes, but advises travellers to apply 72 hours in advance in case of delays.

What about residents?

This does not apply to residents, so they will not need to complete the online process before travel. Instead, they will show their passport and residency document at the border, just as they do now.

What does this change?

This is technically a visa-waiver rather than a visa, but it basically spells the end of paperwork-free travel into the EU for many groups.

For tourists and visitors to the EU it's a big change, meaning that pre-holiday tasks will now include the online visa for all members of the group, in addition to booking a hotel/flights etc.

The process itself sounds fairly simple - and each visa lasts for three years so regular travellers won't need to do this every time - but it seems likely that the message of what is now required won't filter through to many holidaymakers, leading to confusing scenes at the border.  

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Comments (16)

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Ron Houston 2024/02/01 12:12
How will EES and ETIAS affect someone like me who has a carte de sejour when traveling direct from UK to an EU country other than France? Which gate, automatic or ‘manned’?
Pam Gully 2024/01/25 20:03
I'm not sure how those who hold either EU passports, or residency visas, parked twelve or more hours back in the queue, would be able to circumvent the delay, though.
Peter Griggs 2023/12/19 14:36
So, how does that impact holders of residency within an EU country travelling within the EU? For instance, I'm a UK Citizen and hold residency status in Italy under the BREXIT arrangements. If I choose to travel to/from Italy by rail, how does that work? Will I have the faff, inconvenience and expense of having to get an ETIAS because I am transiting France? Then, will I have to get a French exit when I cross into Italy? How?!
Carlos 2023/12/19 12:48
Any information on how this will affect Military NATO personnel than normally use a government official passport or diplomatic passport. Service members use an ID card. Thank you. Carlos Reyes
John 2023/04/19 18:39
So why are the xenophobic morons in Norway's UDI advising foreigners with documented citizens' rights to reside in Norway not to travel abroad without a new residency permit? Why haven't Norway invested in adequate admin resources to process applications in a timely manner with some reason beyond "our shit Nordic system and wank-stain attitude says 'no'"? The posilsibilities are very limited, between gross incompetence to "we trolls really don't care about humans". Weirdos regardless.
Anonymous 2023/01/06 17:01
Margs - if you have dual citizenship, isn't the worst thing that can happen that you would have to explain yourself to a human? I typically leave UK/enter EU on my EU passport and leave EU/enter UK on my UK passport. And once the people checking when leaving EU asked if I had permission to stay in the EU because the blurry exit stamp in my UK passport from 9 months earlier was hard to distinguish from an entry stamp.
Anonymous 2022/08/05 19:13
So do I understand that someone in legal possession of both a UK and an EU passport and resident in the UK can exit UK on the UK passport and enter the EU on the EU passport, and vice versa on returning?
Anonymous 2022/06/24 14:51
Bruce, NATO soldiers and government civilians always use both passports when travelling. We use our tourist passports when travelling anywhere else except where we are stationed (or on official duty). For me, that's Germany. I use my official passport to re-enter Germany because that's the one my SOFA visa is in. It is confusing and causes issues all the time. They always want to see a stamp and there often isn't one, and despite showing them the visa allowing me unrestricted access to and from Germany, there is usually a delay and a more experienced border agent required, or, a simple wave of a military ID is sufficient to pass. This new electronic system will cause all sorts of grief for us since the visa is a stamp and not an electronic version.
Anonymous 2021/11/15 18:12
I have a 1 year visa in France and want to stay longer. We figured that we would leave after that 1 year, fly or drive to a non-Schengen country like Croatia, and then drive back to Italy with what I think would be a 90 tourist visa. Do you see any flaws in this process to end a visa and start a 90 day tourist stay back-to-back?
Anonymous 2021/11/14 18:53
Question: exactly when are these new measures going to be rolled out next year? Do you we have a specific date?
  • Anonymous 2021/11/15 18:37
    It says, above.
Anonymous 2021/11/13 10:32
We arrived in Italy on Oct 6th with our UK Passports and were directed by a border guard who was checking for EPLF's to the Biometric/Electric gates. We scanned through and walked out the airport without a stamp on our Passports. No person at a desk beyond these gates as we've heard of previously. Yesterday we received a generic email from UKGov saying that it is the individual travellers responsibility to seek out a stamp for our Passports on arrival. If we don't (and cannot prove our arrival date using a copy of Boarding Pass etc.) ''it will be assumed by Italian Border Control that we have overstayed''! Then we get a black-mark and all the problems that will cause when trying to visit our second Home in the future. Anyone else have thoughts/experience on the above? ....and then add in Schengen/Non-Schengen. It invariably becomes even more complicated!
Anonymous 2021/11/13 08:15
If you have dual passport eg U.K. & N.Z. , if you make 1 journey from the U.K. on 1 passport ( return journey) to France then the 2nd journey on your NZ passport ( return journey ) to say Italy would the system match the names being the same on separate passports or is it just passport numbers. I guess time will tell.
  • Anonymous 2021/11/13 11:00
    I am in the same position with UK and USA passports. Am required to enter and leave USA on American passport which, given airline visa enforcement, means embarking for USA from wherever on USA passport. Obvs is more convenient to enter and Leave UK on UK passport. So if I travel to second home in Italy intending to travel onward to USA which passport do I use to exit UK? Easy to see how this could become tricky.
Anonymous 2021/11/12 17:02
I live full time in France and have a carte de sejour permanent issued under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. If I flew on holiday to another EU country such as Greece or Italy from a UK airport would I have to go through the new EES system or would I just show my French resident permit to the Greek/Italian border guard to prove to them that the 90 day limit does not apply to me (and therefore I don't need to go through the EES process)? Paul
  • Anonymous 2021/11/15 12:31
    This is worrying, because outside of our EU country of residence (you France, me Germany) the 90/180 day rules do appy to us. If we arrive from outside the Schengen zone into our EU country of residence we are OK but into any other Schengen country we will be treated like any other toursit (unless we can find a human to show our resident permit to and hopefully get them to agree to waive us in). I live on the DE/CH border and fly often from Zürich so technically when I arrive in Zürich my 90/180 clock starts even though I transit direct home to Germany! Check out this helpful article (although it requires not using the eGates and finding a helpful border guard): https://www.thelocal.de/20211103/does-transit-through-germanys-neighbours-affect-brexit-90-day-rule/
Anonymous 2021/11/10 22:38
Can someone explain it to me how to understand this: “ Citizens of many non-EU countries including the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand can spend up to 90 days in every 180 in the EU or Schengen zone without needing a visa – the so-called ’90 day rule’”. My understanding I can stay for 3 months during in 6 months period. Otherwise, 3 months in Italy and go non EU country closest is UK, stay there 3 moths and come back again to France stay there for 3 Minths? ( without visa). Or wait till passes 6 months and then only can return to EU? What about that people used to say “ I stayed 6 months in France and then 6 months in US?” Just don’t understand these rules. It’s keep changing. Thank you in advance.
  • Anonymous 2021/11/11 09:24
    This rule has been in place for a very long time. The best way to look at it is, take a 180 day sliding window and you cannot be in the EU for more than 90 of those days. In your example with Italy, if you stayed the 90 days and left, then went to the UK for 90 days, you could then come back for 1 day. For each day you delayed returning your stay could be 1 day longer, until you have been out of the EU for the full 180 days which means you could come back for 90 days. If someone stayed in France for 6 months, it was either a very long time ago or obtained a visa with a different status , ie student etc.
thelocal_605cdc2fc8d83 2021/11/10 18:32
Almost certainly. The standardization of passports that started around the 1990 was about more than just making them work in border passport scanners worldwide, it was about national governments sharing passport information for security purposes. There's a very good chance that the nation within which your friend ;-) wants to live all year will be well aware of their dual nationalities.
Anonymous 2021/11/10 15:20
I have a friend with two non-EU passports who wonders if it would be possible to use these to avoid being restricted to only being able to stay in the EU up to 180 days a year. Would the new technology have the ability to scan for those people with more than one passport?
  • Anonymous 2021/11/11 09:26
    I assume your 'friend' would trigger the system when trying to exit with a passport that was never recognized as having entered the country. You would set off alarms bells for sure.

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