What To Know About ETIAS And Finger Scans

Borders are stressful places. And for non-Europeans, crossing the border into a European country is about to get progressively more complicated over the next year.

A new system called the EES (entry and exit system) comes into effect from May 2023 that will change the current process in two main ways:

  1. In addition to the information in passports, the system will take biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and store them for future reference—in much the same way as the U.S. currently does.
  2. Instead of passport stamps—which can be time-consuming as dates have to be checked manually—the system will automatically record exactly when someone entered the country, so it will automatically know if they have overstayed their welcome.

Nothing will change for EU citizens or for people traveling inside the Schengen area, between France and Spain, for instance. It will only affect people traveling into the area. The Schengen zone is currently comprised of 22 countries from the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.

It is hoped this system will help to find people who are currently slipping through the net. Most travelers are allowed to stay 90 days without a visa, over a 180-day period, which is more than enough time for most holidays. This also applies to people who have second homes in France.

For people crossing borders by plane or by train, the procedures are mostly automated and there is unlikely to be a big difference. However, it isn’t yet clear how travelers arriving by car would be affected. At the moment, cars pre-register everyone who is traveling inside, such as at the Eurotunnel border between France and the U.K., and then they hand the passports over together for stamping. It’s not yet clear if everyone will be made to exit the car to have their fingers and faces scanned under the new rules.

People with dual nationality can travel on their EU passports and be exempt, and people who have residency in an EU country can show their residency cards (such as the Carte de Séjour in France) to stop the clock from starting a 90-day countdown upon entering the country. It still has yet to be confirmed how the EES would work with these people using the automated barriers as these would not know if a visa or residency card exists.

The EES is a different and additional new feature of European travel to the ETIAS scheme, which will be brought in later in 2023. The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will oblige visitors from outside Europe to apply for a visa-waiver before arriving into a country that is in the Schengen zone.

ETIAS will work much like the U.S. ESTA scheme, costing €7 per registration and lasting for 3 years. Anyone traveling from one of over 63 countries will need one, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the U.S., the U.K. and the UAE. This includes travelers between the ages of 18 and 70 and if someone’s passport expires within the three years, they would need to apply for a new ETIAS visa-waiver document.

The introduction of the ETIAS has been put back to November 2023.

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