Europe Poised to Add New Layer of Security Screening

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International meetings just got a little bit more complicated.

Beginning January 1, 2021, citizens of the US, Canada and other visa-exempt nations will need to register online and be pre-screened before being allowed entry into most European Union countries.

All non-EU nationals who do not need a visa to travel to Europe’s Schengen Area countries will soon need to get approval through the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) prior to their trip or be refused entry, starting on January 1, 2021. The ETIAS program will also apply to Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Romania, but not to Great Britain or Ireland. ETIAS pre-authorization will be required for citizens of the 60-plus countries that currently travel visa-free to the European Union, including the United States, Australia, Canada and Mexico.

This new pre-travel authorization is not a visa, contrary to what some news outlets mistakenly reported last week. Unlike a visa, ETIAS approval does not require a visit to a consulate, extensive information sharing or a waiting period. The online application should take under 10 minutes to complete and requires only a valid passport. In 95 percent of cases, approval will be granted within minutes, according to a fact sheet from the EU.

Currently, border and law enforcement authorities have little information on travelers who are crossing the EU borders visa-free. By checking all visitors prior to their arrival, the ETIAS will close an important information gap. The aim is “to identify any security or irregular migratory risks posed by visa-exempt visitors…whilst at the same time facilitate crossing borders for the vast majority of travelers who do not pose such risks,” stated the EU fact sheet. The system will conduct automated checks against EU information systems, and is designed to minimize delays and refusals of entry at border crossings.

Once approved, the ETIAS authorization remains in effect for three years or until the expiration of the holder’s passport.

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