Europe’s Schengen Area—a group of 26 countries that have been in an open-borders agreement for a quarter of a century—has marked its 25th anniversary with border checks reinstated and movement restricted due to the outbreak of coronavirus. The Schengen Area has closed its external borders to travelers from third countries. Only nationals and official residents
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Four of Europe’s microstates will not be on the list of countries whose citizens have to register with the Schengen Area’s new ETIAS travel authorization system to visit the majority of European countries.
Nationals of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City currently enjoy freedom of movement around the Schengen Area—an open border region of Europe comprised of 22 EU countries and the 4 European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member states (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland).
The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is due to be implemented in 2021 to strengthen the security of the Schengen Zone.
After this date, most nationalities that can presently travel throughout the Schengen member states visa-free will need to apply for ETIAS in order to continue to do so.
However, citizens of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City will be exempt from this new requirement.
European Microstates and the Schengen Area
Until recently, there has been speculation that nationals of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City may be required to register with ETIAS to travel to other European countries when the system is introduced in 2021.
Although they are not official members of the EU or the Schengen Area, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican have open borders with their Schengen neighbors.
This makes them de facto part of the Schengen Zone, since residents of both the microstates and neighboring countries, as well as visitors to the Schengen Area, can come and go as they please.
The idea of imposing border controls around these tiny states and requiring their citizens to apply for ETIAS to leave was somewhat controversial. However, according to the latest global visa information, it seems that this will not be the case.
The Europe Direct Contact Center has now released information indicating that nationals of all 4 microstates will not be affected by ETIAS and that they will still be able to travel around Europe freely.
What Are European Microstates?
Microstates are fully independent sovereign countries that consist of a very small land area and/or population. Europe has a number of microstates with varying relationships to neighboring countries and to organizations like the EU.
Some microstates are closely connected to neighboring countries, who may take responsibility for things like military protection of the microstate. However, unlike a territory of a larger country, this relationship is voluntary and the microstate retains sovereign control.
There are 6 small countries considered microstates in Europe. These are:
- San Marino
- Vatican City
Only 2 of these (Malta and Liechtenstein) are officially part of the European Schengen Area.
The Status of Microstates in Europe
Of the 6 microstates of Europe, only Malta is a full member of the European Union and Schengen Area.
Liechtenstein is also in the Schengen Area due to being a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), although it is not a member of the EU.
The remaining 4 microstates are not part of the EU, EFTA, or Schengen. However, they all share borders with Schengen states and all but Monaco are landlocked:
- San Marino and the Vatican are enclaves completely surrounded by Italy
- Monaco is bordered by only France
- Andorra shares borders with both France and Spain
None of these 4 microstates have an airport, meaning that crossing the land border (or by sea, in the case of Monaco) is the only way citizens can leave the small areas that make up their countries.
This is why nationals of these states are visa-exempt and most likely the reason why they will be exempt from ETIAS.
International travelers from outside the Schengen Area and the associated microstates who wish to visit any of these countries should always check visa requirements before booking a holiday.
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Official sources from the European Commission have confirmed that the implementation of the ETIAS visa waiver to travel to Schengen Area countries has been delayed for a year until 2022. ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) is a pre-travel authorization system for visa-exempt citizens to travel to Schengen Countries. The Schengen Area consists of