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 22 European Union countries and 4 non-EU members who share a common visa policy.
Once available, eligible citizens will be able to apply for ETIAS authorization through a simple online application form, to receive an approved travel authorization electronically linked to their passport.
All of the information applicants provide on the form will be screened against several European security databases managed by eu-LISA, including Interpol, Europol, SIS, and VIS, before an ETIAS can be approved.
When Will ETIAS Become Fully Operational?
Approved in 2016 by the European Parliament, ETIAS was established to pre-screen visa-free travelers to the Schengen Area for any potential security risks, in order to strengthen European borders.
It was originally expected to take around 5 years for the system to be functional, and it was expected that visa-free citizens would have to apply for an ETIAS authorization to travel to Europe by the end of 2021.
However, it has been confirmed that the system will not be fully implemented until the end of 2022, and that it will not be mandatory for visa-exempt citizens to obtain an ETIAS travel authorization until up to a year afterward.
When the ETIAS Visa Waiver Will Become Mandatory
A EU Commission spokesperson has confirmed that the date that ETIAS will come into effect and the date it becomes mandatory for visa-free travelers will be two different dates.
The official stated that “For a period of six months from the date on which ETIAS starts operations, the use of ETIAS will be optional and the requirement to be in possession of a valid travel authorization will not apply.”
However, during this period, it will be obligatory for Schengen member states to inform visa-exempt travelers crossing Schengen external borders that they must have an approved ETIAS travel authorization after the initial 6-month period.
A leaflet informing travelers of this requirement is set to be distributed to all visa-exempt citizens crossing Schengen borders during the initial grace period, as well as made available at all Schengen country embassies and consulates in territories whose citizens will need to obtain ETIAS.
It was also suggested that this grace period could be extended for another 6 months period maximum in order to allow travelers and border officials alike to adapt to the new ETIAS requirement.
During the second 6-month period, it will be a mandatory requirement to have a valid travel authorization. However, visa-free citizens who arrive at the border without an approved ETIAS will be allowed to cross the external Schengen border in order to fulfill this requirement, providing that they are crossing the border for the first time since the second 6-month period began.
ETIAS is expected to become fully mandatory in 2023 for visa-exempt travelers to the Schengen Area.