As of 2021, citizens from more than 60 countries which are currently part of the Schengen visa-waiver agreement (including Canada) will have to apply for an ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) when travelling to Europe for tourism. This initiative has been discussed in the EU legislative framework and has the aim to optimize external border control around the Schengen Member States. In a coalition between ETIAS and EES (Entry-Exit System), the EU intends to dynamize its migration-related processes as well as reinforce internal security.
The ETIAS will work as an electronic authorization rather than a visa per se. Much like the U.S. ESTA or Canada’s eTA, the ETIAS will be an automated process whose database will be shared across the Schengen Zone, thus facilitating procedures for authorities and travellers alike. However, this comprehensive arrangement differs from that of a regular Schengen Visa, which is done on a case-basis and according to the designated Member State’s regulations. Hence, in order to board a plane, bus, ferry or train travelling to a Schengen country, all non-EU travellers who are currently exempted from applying for a Schengen Visa will have to bear a valid ETIAS authorization.
Once processed, the ETIAS will be valid for 3 years from the date of issue or until the registered passport expires, after which the traveller will be required to apply for a new authorization. The ETIAS will grant its bearer the opportunity to transit freely within the Schengen Area for up to 90 days in any period of 180 days, starting from the first entry. Yet, despite having a valid ETIAS the traveller is still subject to the final approval of an immigration officer at the port of entry.
For Canadian passport holders, this means that after the implementation of the new policy all citizens will have to submit an online application prior to their arrival to the following European countries:
Who needs ETIAS?
The ETIAS will concern citizens of all countries who currently enjoy a visa-waiver program to travel in the Schengen Area. Hence, Canadian passport holders – together with nationals of more than 60 other countries – who plan to travel to one of the 26 Member States will have to apply for an ETIAS as of 2021. Conversely, travellers who, at present, require a country-specific Schengen Visa in order to come to Europe will not be eligible for an ETIAS.All applicants will be subjected to the same online procedure, which will involve filling an electronic form with personal data, health and safety information and the respective Schengen country of entry.
Below is a list of all current visa-exempt countries as well as other special administrative regions, territories unrecognized by Schengen Country(s), and case-specific British nationals who are also eligible for an ETIAS:
Recently, Europe has been troubled by a wave of terrorist attacks – particularly those in Germany, Belgium, and France – and a growing immigration crisis in Greece and Italy. This has urged the European Union to consider alternatives for dealing with such hinges, which consequently prompted the European Commission to propose a series of legislative measures. Among these measures, the ETIAS arose as the best response to internal security issues as well as a way to improve control over illegal immigration.
Another application for the ETIAS lies in the fact that, nowadays, most immigration officers should make a relatively fast decision concerning the entry of travellers from visa-free countries based on limited information. Once the ETIAS is implemented, border officials will be able to carry out a broader security analysis before approving an entry into Europe. Plus, this system will also speed-up border control processes.
A key objective of the system is to cross-check information provided by applicants with that of different European and international databases. This will allow the EU to identify individuals who are susceptible to irregular migration or present a risk to internal security even before their departure for Europe. Although the ETIAS system is expected to approve the vast majority of applications, if the data crossing detects any information relevant to the security risk, the request will be processed by an agent who may require further information or even an interview.