Do you travel throughout Europe? If so, there are two travel authorization systems that may add to your pre-trip to-do list in the future. Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) will affect travelers visiting the United Kingdom (UK) while the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) will impact travelers headed to the European Schengen Area.

We’ve compiled the information below to address questions you may have about both schemes, the application process, and how they will impact travel to Europe.

Visiting the UK

Learn about ETA, the UK’s new authorization scheme

ETA is part of the UK government’s plans to strengthen the UK border through digitalization. ETA will be required for travelers who now enter the UK visa-free. It will be linked to your passport electronically, giving you permission to enter the UK but not a promise you can enter.

Who will need to apply and when will ETA take effect?

ETA will be rolled out in phases with nationals from Qatar impacted first. If you’re from Qatar and you’re traveling to the UK on Nov. 15, 2023, or after, you’ll need to apply online for an ETA starting on Oct. 25, 2023.

Nationals from Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan are the next to be affected. Visa-exempt travelers from those countries will need an ETA beginning in February 2024.

ETA is expected to be rolled out in full by the end of 2024 when it will be required by all travelers, including those from the United States (US), European Union (EU), and transit passengers. British and Irish citizens won’t need an ETA. To check if you need one, visit the UK government’s website.

What is required for ETA?

You’ll need a valid biometric passport from an eligible country, an active email address to receive the approved ETA, and a credit or debit card to pay the ETA processing fee. You’ll also be asked to provide personal, security, and trip information.

Will there be a background check?

Questions about criminal offenses and immigration history will be covered in the application process so that the UK has more information about visitors and more time to screen them. Through this type of advanced screening, the scheme aims to reduce the number of people denied entry at the border.

What is the ETA application fee?

The cost is £10 per applicant.

What happens once I submit the application?

Most applicants will get an email confirmation within three business days or less, although it may take longer if you have incomplete information or further checks are needed. Once you’re approved, your ETA will be linked electronically to the passport you used for the application.

Will I need to reapply every time I visit the UK?

No. You can use your ETA for multiple trips over two years. If your passport expires before two years, you’ll need to get a new ETA.

How will ETA affect my travel experience?

You’ll need to go through passport control at the border and present your passport or national identity card. You can either use an ePassport gate if you’re eligible or see a Border Force officer to enter the UK.

For more details on timing, requirements, and fees, visit the UK government’s website.

EU Flag

Visiting the European Schengen Area

Learn about ETIAS, another system to improve border security

Travelers from dozens of countries will need to apply for authorization to enter the Schengen Area, a border-free zone comprised mainly of EU countries, when a new EU visa waiver program is supposed to go into effect in 2024. ETIAS will have a massive impact globally, affecting an estimated 1.4 billion travelers from countries that currently have a visa-free travel regime with the EU.

What is ETIAS?

The ETIAS isn’t a visa. It is a visa waiver program, like ETA, the US Electronic System Travel Authorization, and travel authorization systems in Canada and Australia. ETIAS is designed to bolster security and identify possible threats by screening and registering visa-free visitors to the Schengen Area.

Who will need to apply for ETIAS?

Travelers of all ages from countries who are eligible to enter the European Schengen Area without a visa will need an ETIAS travel authorization when visiting any of the Schengen member countries as well as Bulgaria, Romania, and Cyprus. This includes transit passengers.

Note: ETIAS does not replace visas. Therefore, travelers from countries who previously needed a visa to enter a Schengen member country still need to get one. They do not have to apply for ETIAS authorization.

EU nationals and residents are exempt from ETIAS and can use their passport or national identity card to move around the bloc freely.

Which countries will require ETIAS?

All 27 countries in the Schengen Area as well as Bulgaria, Romania, and Cyprus are participating in ETIAS. They include Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

When does ETIAS go into effect?

Initially expected to launch in late 2022, ETIAS is now delayed to 2025. Our advice is to check the ETIAS website regularly for launch date.

What is required for ETIAS?

In addition to standard personal information, applicants will have to provide travel document details about their travel intention, current occupation, and security-related questions (e.g., criminal history and travel to conflict areas). They also will need to upload a scanned copy of their passport and a biometric photo.

Will there be a background check?

Yes. ETIAS will cross-check visitors’ information with government databases and watch lists before authorizing them to enter the Schengen Area.

What is the ETIAS application fee?

Only visitors between the ages of 18 and 70 will have to pay the €7 application fee.

What happens once I submit the application?

Most applicants will receive an approval email within minutes after submitting the application. Manual review will be necessary if an electronic application has been flagged. This can occur if the application contains errors, such as the wrong passport number being entered or if something comes up on the background check.

Will I need to reapply every time I visit the Schengen Area?

The ETIAS waiver will allow travelers to enter the Schengen region for up to 90 days within a 180-day period and can be used again and again for future trips. Once approved, an ETIAS authorization will be valid for three years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever comes first.

How will ETIAS affect my travel experience?

You can board your flight or bus to any country requiring ETIAS but the border guard at the crossing point has the final say on whether you can enter based on national laws or security concerns. 

If you’re wondering how ETIAS and ETA may impact your travel program, feel free to contact us.