ETIAS to support Schengen Zone travel databases
The European Commission has announced that Europe's ETIAS will support existing security databases and information systems, including the Schengen Information System (SIS) and Entry-Exit System (EES). The latter is a large-scale IT system for automatic monitoring of border crossings by "3rd party nationals" currently in development and slated to be active by 2020. The Commission has stated that ETIAS will "bridge an existing information gap on visa-free travelers by gathering information that could be vital to Member States' authority in advance of their arrival at the Schengen border." They are also eager to emphasize that ETIAS is not a visa, but a visa travel waiver, and is designed as an online application and authorization system. As such, the online procedure for an ETIAS application will be easy and affordable, as well as fast to process.
ETIAS is one of numerous ongoing initiatives by EU authorities including the European Commission and European Parliament (the elected legislative body of the European Union) as part of new mandates to collect essential data on all travelers, vital to the security of the region, in order to give protection to its borders while keeping them open.
The primary functions of Europe's ETIAS will be to collect data via the online ETIAS application to:
1. Confirm and verify information submitted in each application, including identity, passport information, and address and contact information to asses any risks of security, public health and irregular migration.
2. Digitally processed applications which include cross-referencing with intelligence agencies (such as Interpol and Europol,) and the security databases the ETIAS travel authorization is being developed to support, (such as SIS, the Schengen Information System,) as well as checking against Europol's ETIAS Watch List. Combined with specific screening directives, the ETIAS application process of cross-data sharing will assess and determine grounds for refusal of applications.
3. Approve ETIAS travel authorization. For travelers whose ETIAS applications are processed without any determination of risk, the ETIAS visa waiver will be approved and issued digitally.
Once implemented, the European Travel and Information System's data will be integrated with existing European Union (EU) data systems. This integration will deliver the most advanced information collection and sharing measures implemented for the security of the Schengen Zone to date. Collectively, these are broad measures aimed at bolstering and enhancing Schengen area security by closing the existing information gap. Conceived for safer Europe for its citizens and visitors, the comprehensive security initiatives will reinforce critical efforts to combat terrorism, human trafficking, and unlawful migration, and other crimes.
ETIAS, the European Travel and Information System, is slated to go into effect on January 1, 2021. It will offer American travelers, as well as travelers from 60 other non-EU countries, an online application and approval process to obtain an ETIAS Travel Waiver. An ETIAS allows for visa-free travel to 26 countries within The Schengen Area, eliminating the need for visits to, and interviews with, consulates or embassies to apply for a traditional travel visa. ETIAS, in concert with other EU security measures, will help create a more secure Europe for all, while maintaining the open borders that are the tenet of the Schengen spirit.