TORONTO — The EU has pushed back the launch date of its new visa waiver program for a second time.
Originally set to launch in 2021, ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) was first pushed back to May 2023 before subsequently being delayed again until November 2023. This means travellers – including those from Canada – are off the hook for a little while longer to pay the €7 fee associated with the program. While all citizens of visa-free countries, regardless of age, will be required to apply for ETIAS authorization, only those ages 18-70 will need to pay the fee.
But why the multiple delays? Is the program under scrutiny?
“The launch delay can be attributed to the prioritization of both putting in place and subsequently lifting border measures and restrictions over the past number of years and months for the health and safety of travellers into European countries,” says Sandra Bailey Moffatt, Chair of the European Travel Commission (ETC) and Manager-Canada of Tourism Ireland. “Now that international travel has resumed, Europe can work towards finalizing the visa-waiver program. We also recognize the importance of ensuring that when this program is ultimately released, that it is fully operational and introduced as a simple straightforward process.”
The EU assures travellers that the entire online application process will take 10-20 minutes, a minor inconvenience to ensure safe travels within Europe, minimize the risk of crime and terrorism, and reduce procedures and application times. A traveller’s ETIAS will be approved within minutes of submitting their application. If a traveller’s application is denied, they will not be permitted to board if travelling by air, land and sea into the Schengen Zone.
According to Bailey Moffatt, the requirements for ETIAS remain the same, despite the latest delay. Travellers must have a passport that’s valid for at least three months past arrival date into Europe, as well as an email address and a debit or credit card for payment. Full details can be found here.
“Ultimately, the objective of the ETIAS authorization is to make travelling to the EU less of a hassle and a much safer experience. Safety and security are paramount and any transparency with regards to borderless travel should, of course, reassure visitors of any concerns they may have when travelling cross-border in the Schengen Zone,” says Bailey Moffatt.
“ETIAS is also not a unique system,” she adds. “It’s very similar to ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) in Canada and ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) in the United States, already both in place for some time. So, we don’t anticipate it being a deterrent for inbound tourism.”
But what about for those who aren’t particularly tech-savvy? As with ArriveCAN, the app used to monitor COVID-19 vaccinations among air arrivals at Canada’s borders, many travellers, particularly older ones, experienced difficulty navigating the app or accessing the technology required to work it. Though ETIAS is not an app and can be done online, it can be safely assumed that there will be some confusion among many travellers over how to properly complete the form. This, says Bailey Moffatt, is hopefully where travel agents can help.
“We will ensure that everything related to the ETIAS program is communicated to our travel agents with as much notice as possible, and offer any advice necessary to ensure it’s a simple and straightforward process for everyone involved,” she says.
Bailey Moffatt adds that the form will be readily available online, and once completed, can be submitted by the applicant or by an authorized commercial intermediary. Also notable, since approval is valid for a period of three years – or until the expiry date of the passport, whichever comes first – “it’s not something that will be required upon every entry during this time period.”
For full ETIAS requirements and more information go to https://etias.com/.
For more information on travel to the Schengen Zone, go to https://www.