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Does this mean I will need a visa to travel to Europe?

ETIAS is not a visa, it’s a travel authorization requirement for visa-free visitors, similar to the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

The new entry requirement “is more accurately referred to as a visa-waiver. The ETIAS, like the ESTA, is a travel authorization for travelers not requiring a visa to visit Europe. Under the ETIAS, these visitors will undergo additional security checks prior to being permitted to enter the EU. The ETIAS will be mandatory for citizens of such countries as the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada,” states, the landing page for news and information regarding the new travel authorization process.

In other words, ETIAS will only prescreen travelers who do not need a Schengen visa.

According to a fact sheet provided by the European Commission, “Nationals of visa liberalization countries will continue to travel the EU without a visa but will simply be required to obtain a travel authorization via ETIAS prior to their travel.

“An ETIAS travel authorization does not reintroduce visa-like obligations,” it continues. “There is no need to go to a consulate to make an application, no biometric data is collected and significantly less information is gathered than during a visa application procedure.”

Why was the launch of ETIAS delayed?

Initially meant to come into effect on January 1, 2021, the ETIAS was first delayed until January 1, 2023. It is now slated to enter into operation in 2024, due to delays in the anticipated adoption of the ETIAS Regulation plus the fact that ETIAS is being developed closely with the Entry/Exit System (EES), which was scheduled to launch in May 2023, but has been pushed back until summer 2024. The EES is the electronic system that keeps track of visitors as they cross borders, and it is a precondition for ETIAS to enter into operation.

What is the exact date ETIAS will go into effect?

The exact launch date for Europe’s ETIAS travel authorization program has not been announced. Once ETIAS goes into effect in 2024, a transitional period of six months will follow. During that time frame, the countries requiring the travel authorization will have to inform passengers of the new regulations. Passengers will still be allowed to cross borders during that six-month period without the ETIAS. The six-month transitional period will be followed by a grace period, the length of which has not yet been determined. During the grace period, the ETIAS requirement will apply unless it’s a passenger’s first time entering Europe since the end of the transitional period.

This article was originally published in 2019. It was most recently updated on July 24, 2023, to include current information.

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