In recent years, a number of countries around the world have adopted electronic visa waiver systems to screen foreign travelers before entering their borders. The United States has adopted the ESTA visa waiver system, while Australia has introduced the ETA (Electronic Travel Authority). In 2016, the European Commission approved a proposal for a new European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) to be implemented by the end of 2022.
The new ETIAS visa waiver system will require many previously visa-exempt nationalities to pre-register travel for short stays to any of the 26 Schengen countries, including France. Eligible applicants will be required to complete a simple online application, with the data provided pre-screened against information databases to identify any health or security risks to Europe.
The ETIAS travel authorization is expected to have many benefits for the European Union in several ways, including by preventing illegal immigration, improving security and border control, and saving visa processing time for travelers and border officials alike.
How will ETIAS Work?
There are currently 62 nationalities eligible to enter Schengen member states visa-free for short stays for tourism or business purposes. However, this will change from the end of 2022 when the ETIAS authorization is implemented, and nationals of many of the same countries, including Japan, Canada, and the United States will require a Europe visa waiver for short stays in the Schengen Area.
The Schengen Area is made up of 22 EU member states and the four non-EU states of Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, and all of its borders will fall under the ETIAS visa waiver system.
Passport holders from eligible countries planning to visit France or another Schengen member state for less than 90 days will be required to complete the online ETIAS application form before travel.
Travelers will first have to meet the ETIAS France requirements to be eligible to apply, including having a passport valid for 3 months upon arrival in the Shengen Area, paying the France ETIAS process fee with a credit or debit card, and providing a current email address at which to receive the ETIAS France visa waiver.
In order to complete the France ETIAS online application, it will be necessary to fill in all the data from the applicant’s passport information page, as well provide contact details and information about the trip to Europe. A series of security and health-related questions will also be asked, with all of the data provided then checked against information databases to pre-screen the traveler before approval is granted.
Upon approval of the ETIAS for France, the traveler can then print a copy of the visa waiver to present alongside the relevant passport at Schengen Area border control. The ETIAS for Europe will allow visa waiver holders to enter any Schengen member state for 90 consecutive days maximum within a total period of 180 days.
How will ETIAS benefit the EU?
The European Commision is implementing the ETIAS for France primarily in order to improve border security in Schengen member states, prompted by an increase in terrorist activities and other security threats in France and the rest of Europe.
Applicants for ETIAS authorization will be pre-screened to identify any risks before they enter the Schengen Area, with checks carried out against the major security databases such as SIS, VIS, Europol and Interpol. This will allow for threats to be identified before they can pose a risk to the country of destination, improving safety in Europe.
Aside from improving border security in Europe, the ETIAS visa waiver will also improve the efficiency of the application process. Some passport holders who previously had to physically get a France authorization from their local French embassy or consulate will now be able to complete the online application for the France ETIAS in less than 20 minutes.
The ETIAS for Europe will also save time at entry points for both travelers and border officials, as pre-screened visa-waiver holders will not require as much attention at immigration control.