Europe is set to introduce new entry requirements for travellers from more than 60 countries, including Australians, starting in 2024. These changes come as part of the European Union’s (EU) efforts to enhance border security through the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).
Previously, citizens from several countries enjoyed visa exemptions when visiting Europe. However, under the forthcoming reforms, travellers from these nations will need to obtain an ETIAS authorisation before starting their European adventure.
These new regulations will affect approximately 1.4 billion individuals worldwide, which will apply to 30 European countries. The list of EU member states enforcing the ETIAS requirement includes Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Switzerland among others.
The EU’s decision to implement the ETIAS travel authorisation program is primarily driven by the need to safeguard and reinforce its borders in light of escalating terror threats across Europe. By mandating visitors to register in advance, the EU aims to identify potential threats or risks associated with incoming travellers prior to their arrivals.
“It’ll be a minor hassle, but it’s not unusual for countries to have entry requirements like this one,” said Cameron Hewitt, content and editorial director at Rick Steves’ Europe.
“It certainly shouldn’t cause anyone to rethink a trip to Europe. From what we know, ETIAS looks like it’ll simply be a manageable bit of red tape.”
When ETIAS becomes operational in 2024, a six-month transitional phase will follow. Countries mandating travel authorisation will be responsible for informing travellers about the new rules. Travellers will also still be allowed to cross borders without an ETIAS during these initial six months.
While the precise launch date for Europe’s ETIAS travel authorisation program remains undisclosed, the European Commission is expected to announce an updated timeline for both the European Entry/Exit System (EES) and ETIAS in October.
ETIAS: Requirements, application, and validity
As the European Union prepares to implement the ETIAS in 2024, it’s important for travellers to be aware of the requirements and application process associated with this new travel authorisation.
First, ETIAS authorisation will be linked to an active passport. To be eligible, the passport should have a validity of at least three months beyond the intended departure date and must not be older than ten years. However, if the person renews their passport, their existing ETIAS authorisation will become null and void.
When applying for ETIAS, applicants will be required to provide personal information, including their name, contact details, intended length of visit, and any relevant criminal history.
After implementation, security personnel will request visa-exempt travellers to display their ETIAS authorization at border checkpoints before gaining entry. Air, sea, and land transportation providers will be responsible for confirming that their passengers possess the necessary documentation to access the Schengen Area.
ETIAS authorisations will typically remain valid for up to three years or until the passport expires. During this validity period, travellers can make multiple entries into any of the 30 participating countries, with each stay limited to a maximum of 90 days within a six-month period.
To obtain ETIAS authorisation, applicants can fill out an application on the official website or use the ETIAS app once it’s launched. The cost of this authorisation is €7 or approximately AUD$11.40. However, children under the age of 18 and individuals aged 70 or older are not required to pay this fee.
The processing time for new applications is generally pretty quick, often taking only a few minutes. But, in some cases, the process may take longer. It can range from 14 to 30 days, particularly if a face-to-face interview or additional documentation is requested.
Given the potential for extended processing times and to ensure a seamless travel experience, the EU website advises travellers to apply for their ETIAS authorisation “well in advance” of their travel plans.
Additional preparations for European travel
Besides the ETIAS requirements, modern travellers are also advised to have decent connectivity. Notably, eSIM or embedded SIMs have gained popularity among travellers, particularly after Apple’s decision to eliminate the SIM card tray from the iPhone 14 in order to maximise space.
According to Apple’s website, eSIM offers several advantages while travelling abroad, including enhanced security since it cannot be physically removed if your iPhone is lost or stolen. It eliminates the need to acquire, carry, or swap physical SIM cards, which can also be misplaced, lost, or delayed when delivered by mail.
Unlike traditional physical SIM cards that can be inserted and removed from a phone, eSIMs are integrated as small chips within the device itself. Several Android devices have also supported this tech. Utilising an eSIM for Europe for travel presents a convenient option for international roaming, which can be expensive when travelling abroad.