Fingerprints and visa fees – travel to the EU after Brexit is about to be very different

ETIAS travel rules eu after Brexit etias visa uk application cost start date passport public holidays biometric data questions asked criminal record - Alamy

ETIAS travel rules eu after Brexit etias visa uk application cost start date passport public holidays biometric data questions asked criminal record – Alamy

Brexit may be ‘done’, but from the traveller’s point of view the full implications of what it means for our holidays are only just becoming apparent. And I’m not talking about the short-term problems – the chaos at Dover, the queues at the airport immigration desks and the 90-day limit on the time we can spend in EU countries. What will feel very different – ​​and much more bureaucratic – are the new border control systems to be put in place by the EU next year.

Although the government negotiated “visa-free” visits after Brexit for British holidaymakers traveling to Spain, Italy, Greece and so on, the EU is changing its systems so that we will soon have to apply and pay for an electronic passport before we travel. Valid for three years, it will be required for any British citizen entering the Schengen area – the border-free zone that includes the vast majority of member states, plus Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. And in a separate move, the EU will also require us to upload fingerprints and other biometric data to a European computer system.

Before you fist-pump in rage, this is not some terrible Brexit retaliation from Brussels. We are simply experiencing the inevitable disadvantages of losing our EU citizenship. In fact, we are only one of more than 50 countries whose citizens do not need a visa to visit the bloc and therefore must use the new system and register biometric data.

The American model

What Brussels is essentially doing is following the US ESTA model which allows us to visit the US without a visa, as long as we have registered our details and completed the questionnaire on the computerized immigration system before we travel. The aim of both this and the new EU system, known as the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), is to improve security at the border, screen for unwanted or dangerous visitors, and make it harder to forge or use stolen documents.

So how will ETIAS work when it finally comes in? Essentially, you will have to go through a process not that different from what we had to do when Covid-related travel systems were introduced. Using either a new app or the website, you will need to upload some personal information, including your passport details, and then answer a series of security questions about any criminal offenses you may have committed, and health questions about certain medical conditions, infectious or contagious. diseases. Finally, you have to pay an application fee of €7. The EU says that most applications will then be processed “within minutes”.

Assuming you are successful, you will be issued a passport which, combined with your passport, entitles you to visit the EU for 90 days in each 180-day period. It will last for three years, or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. In addition to being checked automatically at the border, your ETIAS passport must also be shown to your airline, train or ferry company before you travel. The EU says that attempting to cross the border without an ETIAS “may have serious consequences, including refusal of entry into the Schengen member state.”

Not until next year

It is not certain when ETIAS will be operational. However, you don’t need to worry about that just yet. The development has been a complicated process and the start date has been pushed back several times. The latest news is that it will be introduced from “late 2023.”

Meanwhile, another major change is planned: the EU’s new Entry and Exit System (EES), which will automatically check the validity of passports and ETIAS passes (or visas) of visitors from non-Schengen countries every time they cross an EU external border . It will be implemented in May 2023 and will replace the system of manually stamped passports, which is currently the only way border officials can monitor whether visitors are staying within the 90-day limit for visa-free travel.

Fingerprints and facial images

It sounds like it should make life easier, but it’s controversial among privacy advocates because the new system will require you to register your fingerprints and a photo of your face. These will then be stored in the form of biometric data on the EU’s computers.

This type of surveillance for security and identity purposes is not unprecedented. The United States has been collecting fingerprints of tourists at its borders for many years. And they are required for entry into China and with some types of visas at the UK border. But a spokesperson for the human rights organization Privacy International expressed concern about the process: “These guidelines have been created without any clear need, but because it is seen as a border security initiative … the normal scrutiny that one would expect from a mass surveillance exercise to apply. Biometric systems handle highly sensitive data that can be used against you, and are prone to error and abuse. They can be used to misidentify you, and lead to a miscarriage of justice.”

In practice, however, if you want to enjoy a holiday in Europe, there won’t be much you can do about it.

All your questions answered

Although the UK is no longer a member of the EU, British citizens are entitled to visit the bloc without a visa (up to a maximum of 90 days in a 180-day period). Currently, this system is controlled by border officials who manually stamp our passports. However, soon we will be required to go through a new process of electronic checks known as ETIAS, which must be completed before travel.

What exactly is ETIAS?

When introduced next year, the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) will be the EU’s way of automatically checking the credentials of visa-free visitors who want to enter the Schengen zone. It will be used for tourism and business travelers and for stays up to the 90-day limit.

What is the Schengen zone?

The zone includes 26 European countries (22 from the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), which have abolished all internal border controls. A further four EU states, Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus, are expected to join Schengen eventually, but in the meantime UK nationals will still need to apply for an ETIAS passport to visit them.

The full list of countries that require a passport is as follows: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. British citizens do not need an ETIAS passport to travel to Ireland.

When will ETIAS be implemented?

ETIAS was previously scheduled to begin at the end of this year, was then pushed back to May 2023 and has now been delayed to “late 2023”.

How do I apply for an ETIAS passport and how much does it cost?

You must make the application online, although the official website and an alternative app are not ready yet. There is a one-off fee of €7 and you will be issued a passport that lasts for three years, or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. Your ETIAS passport must be shown to your airline, train or ferry company before you travel. The EU says that attempting to cross the border without an ETIAS “may have serious consequences, including refusal of entry into the Schengen member state.”

What information do you need to provide an ETIAS passport?

For the online ETIAS application, you need a valid passport from an eligible country and an email address. You must also fill in some personal information, including your full name, date of birth and country of residence. And at the end of the process there will be some safety and health issues (see below). You must then pay the application fee of €7 with a debit or credit card. The EU says most applications “will be processed within minutes”.

What happens to the information you provide to the EU?

All applications are automatically checked against a number of security databases, including EUROPOL, Interpol and a special watch list which includes certain people on the UN war criminals list, and people who have committed or are likely to commit acts of terrorism or major criminal offences.

What is the ETIAS health question?

We don’t yet know the exact questions that will be asked yet, but there will be a series asking if you have suffered, or are suffering from certain medical conditions, contagious or infectious diseases. These will then be automatically checked against a database. If you fail these checks, a more detailed investigation will follow to confirm whether or not an ETIAS passport will be issued.

What are the ETIAS security questions?

Applicants will be asked to declare whether they have a criminal record that includes criminal damage, terrorism, violence, drug or human trafficking or sexual assault within the last 10 years (20 years for terrorism).

Can you get ETIAS if you have a criminal record?

The EU says that yes, you will “in most cases, providing information about a criminal record will not be in breach of the requirements for an ETIAS visa waiver. However, some serious offenses may lead to a refusal.” In such cases, they must apply for an appropriate Schengen visa from the embassy of the country they are traveling to.

What is the difference between ETIAS and EES?

The EES is the EU’s new Entry/Exit system which will automatically register and track visitors from countries outside the Schengen area – whether they have a visa or an ETIAS passport – every time they cross an EU external border. It will replace the system of manual stamping of passports, which is currently the only way border authorities can monitor whether visitors, such as those from the UK, are staying within the 90-day limit for visa-free travel.

The new system will record the person’s name, travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and date and place of entry and exit. You must register your photos and fingerprints, which will be stored in the form of biometric data.

EES will enter into force in May 2023, but it is far from certain that it will be possible to implement the system before ETIAS is ready.

Where can I find out more?

For updates and more detailed information see the EU’s ETIAS website: etiasvisa.com.

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