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Beefing up EU border controls: pre-screening visa-exempted travellers


Third country nationals exempt from visa requirements on entering the Schengen area will need to apply for a travel authorisation before coming to the EU. 

• Travellers posing a risk to security will be refused
• Fee of 10 euros, authorisation valid for 3 years for unlimited trips
• Electronic application to be processed in less than 72 hours  

The new European Travel and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will allow for advanced checks on visa-free travellers and those considered to pose a risk in terms of security, irregular migration or high epidemic risk will be denied access.
Under the draft rules approved on Thursday by Civil Liberties Committee MEPs, non-EU nationals who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen area will have to fill in an electronic form with their personal data (including name, date and place of birth, sex and nationality), travel document information (validity, country of issue), home address and contact information, and the European country of first intended entry.

Questions on criminal record and trips to conflict zones

The applicant will also need to inform authorities of any convictions for serious criminal offenses (such as terrorism, sexual exploitation of children, trafficking in human beings or drugs, murder and rape), about stays in specific conflict zones and of any prior administrative decisions requiring them to leave a country, all over the last ten years.
The travel authorisation will cost 10 euros, although some travellers will be exempted from paying this fee (persons under 18 and over 60 years of age, family members of EU citizens and students and researchers travelling for academic purposes), and it will be valid for three years (or until the travel document expires).

How it works
The application will automatically be checked against all relevant databases, including the Schengen Information System, the Entry/Exit System as well as Europol and Interpol databases, to verify, among other issues, whether the travel document has been reported lost or stolen and if the person is wanted for arrest.
The applicant may be requested to provide additional information, and in exceptional cases be invited for an interview. If they are refused entry, he or she will be informed of the reasons and of their rights to an effective remedy, including judicial recourse. In any case, border guards will continue to have the final say on entry.
The Regulation was approved by the Civil Liberties Committee by 42 votes to 12 with 2 abstentions.

Kinga Gál (EPP, HU), rapporteur, said: “ETIAS will bridge the existing information gap on visa-free travellers. Persons from a visa-exempt country outside the EU intending to travel to the Schengen area will be assessed before they arrive at the external border to see if they pose a risk to security, if they could illegally stay in the Schengen area or if they pose a high epidemic risk. It will significantly contribute to enhancing EU security and to stronger and smarter information systems for borders and security.”

Quick Facts
There are currently more than 60 countries and territories whose nationals can travel visa-free to the EU. The Commission expects a significant increase in the number of visa-exempt travellers crossing the Schengen borders in the coming years, from 30 million in 2014 to 39 million in 2020.

The costs of developing ETIAS are estimated at € 212,1 million, and the average annual cost at €85 million. The system could be operational in 2020.

Next steps
The Civil Liberties Committee also backed the negotiating mandate with 39 votes to 13 and 1 abstention. Once confirmed by Parliament as a whole, EP negotiators will be able to open talks with EU Ministers on the final form of the legislation.

Civil Liberties Committee web page
Procedure page
Regulation 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement