Border security: screening travellers before they arrive in the EU 


Travellers who don't need a visa will in the future be screened before they arrive in the EU using the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (Etias).

The idea behind the screening is to detect criminals, terrorists or anyone else posing a risk before they arrive in the EU, which could start as early as 2021. MEPs adopted the plans on Thursday 5 July.

However, the systemic screening should not cause regular travellers any problems. Kinga Gál, the Hungarian EPP member in charge of steering the proposal through Parliament, said:  “It will be an easy process... just an online check, which they can do prior to travelling to the EU."

Current  situation

There is a lack of information related to people from countries that don't require a visa when they travel to the EU. At the moment they are checked at the Schengen border where they arrive. The decision to allow or deny entry is made by border guards without knowing if the person is considered to be a risk. It is especially difficult when people arrive by land as the only info then is their travel document.

In 2020  39 million visa-free travellers from more than 60 countries are expected to visit the EU compared to 30 million in 2014. As Europe’s openness should not come at the cost of its security, Etias has been developed to identify possible security concerns.

Similar models already exists in countries such as the US, Canada and Australia.

What will change?

People coming from countries that don't need a visa to visit the EU will have to fill in an electronic form before travelling with travel documentation and personal data, such as name, date and place of birth, gender and nationality. There will also be background questions about issues such as previous criminal records and their presence in conflict zones. This will allow authorities to asses if someone could pose a risk well before they arrive at the Schengen border. If they do, they could be refused entry.

Quick, cheap and effective

Authorisation will cost €7 and will be valid for up to three years. It will be free for under 18s and over 70s. It is expected that the vast majority of applicants will get authorisation almost immediately. The final decision about EU entry remains with the national border guard.

What happens if there is a risk?

Applications will be processed automatically. If there is a hit with any of the EU security databases or a positive reply to the questions, the data will be manually checked and risks assessed individually. The decision has to be taken within four weeks. Refusals must be justified and the applicant has the right to appeal.

Next steps

Once Parliament has approved the proposal, it will still need to be formally adopted by the Council of Ministers. After that Etias can be operational by 2021. It will work in addition to the Smart borders system of checks on people entering the EU that should become operational by 2020.