Following steps of the US, Canada and Australia, who set the trend for electronic travel authorization for visa waiver travelers, the European Parliament gave its green light today for the deployment of the EU Travel Authorization and Information System (ETIAS).
This new travel authorization, which should be in place as of 2021, will be required for all non-EU citizens who can currently travel into the Schengen territory without a visa. In a similar approach to the US ESTA or the Canadian ETA, passengers will have to apply for the ETIAS online. It will cost 7 EUR and be valid for 3 years. International transfer passengers travelling via EU airports and not entering the Schengen zone will be exempted from this requirement.
Under this new system, similar to the future Entry-Exit System for visa holders, the ETIAS regulation also creates an obligation for carriers – operating services by air, sea as well as coach services – to verify whether passengers hold a valid ETIAS or Visa prior to boarding.
To comply with this obligation, carriers will need to consult the EU database, by submitting the traveler’s passport information, e.g. the data elements included in the machine-readable zone of travel documents. This database, which will be an extract from the ETIAS and Entry-Exit databases, will provide an OK/NOT OK response to the carriers.
For air carriers, based on the existing travel authorizations requirements, and in line with ICAO Annex 9 principles on Electronic Travel Systems, this will require the implementation of an interactive system built into their departure control processes. These systems will transfer passport information to the EU database, which should in return send a response within 2-4 seconds.
The scale of implementation of such systems for carriers at an international level is quite significant and will require the development of robust operating procedures for both the carriers and the EU systems.
Beyond the significant IT challenge this new requirement raises, the EU will need to engage in a massive communication campaign with travelers around the globe to ensure that they are aware of the new requirements. Based on the Canadian and US experience, a period of informed compliance will certainly be needed as well as close cooperation between the EU authorities and the carriers to prevent any disruption in the airlines’ operations and avoid a negative impact on travelers.
Text of the adopted regulation: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/commissions/libe/lcag/2018/04-27/LIBE_LA(2018)003214_EN.pdf