No more visa-free entry to the Schengen zone?

August 3, 2022

Last updated on 14 February 2023.

In May 2023, the ETIAS system will go live. It will be relevant to those non-EU residents who can currently travel visa-free to the Schengen zone. Come May, their passport will not be enough: they will have to register in the ETIAS system before their trip.

UPDATE: Since the original publication of the article, the implementation of ETIAS was rolled back to November 2023 instead of May.

What is the new system about?

The target of the new regulation is people who can now enter the Schengen zone without a visa. The EU wants to increase internal security by getting better control of who can enter, so they are now at the finish line of developing an automated scanning system.

The system is called ETIAS, short for “European Travel Information and Authorisation System”. It has two main elements:

  • An online registration form you must fill in before your trip, complete with a module for paying the EUR 7.00 registration fee.
  • A module for checking your data against various international databases to see if you pose a threat to the community.

After registration, the system automatically checks your data in the ETIAS watchlist. If your name is not listed, you get back an email with a permission to entry in just a few minutes. If there is a hit, your case is forwarded to an administrator who will check it manually. You might still be granted entry, but it will take some time, considering working hours in the EU.

ETIAS is for the Schengen zone and more

Maybe the most important aspect of ETIAS that it is not only relevant for Schengen member countries. ETIAS countries also include countries that are EU member states but are not part of the Schengen zone: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania. If you would normally travel visa-free to these countries, you will still need to register in the ETIAS, even though they are not Schengen countries.

In line with this, the term ETIAS eligible countries covers countries whose citizens can travel visa-free to the ETIAS countries defined above. It entails more than 50 countries around the world, and the list is constantly growing. See if you are eligible here.

Does this mean an end to visa-free travel to the Schengen zone?

No, it does not. The ETIAS visa waiver is not a visa. When you apply for a visa, you apply at the authorities of your specific target country, usually in person, at the embassy or consulate of the target country, and you might be required to submit various supporting documents as well. In most cases, you need an appointment, and then wait for the results before you can even buy your plane ticket.

When you apply for the ETIAS visa waiver, you fill in the same online form independent of your specific target country. You only need your passport, your email address, and a bank card. You only have to reply a few simple questions, and you can do this any time, wherever you are. Moreover, you can expect a result within minutes, unless you are registered as a threat to public safety. Learn about the exact procedure here.

Visa-free entry supported by ETIAS

The May late 2023 introduction of ETIAS is supposed to enhance security within the EU. While it does add an extra task to planning your trip, it is still much less hassle than a visa application. This way you can keep your visa-free travel privileges while you contribute to safety in the Schengen zone and the European Union.

ETIAS is relevant if you are planning a short trip to Europe, meaning a trip under 90 days. If you are aiming for a longer stay, you will need an EU residence permit, same as before, and that must be submitted to a specific target country, according to the rules of that country. Residents of ETIAS countries do not need an ETIAS visa waiver to enter.

In case you are looking for EU residency, Hungary has some of the most lenient immigration regulations in the EU, and our team has 15+ years of experience in supporting foreigners with residency application.

Can we help you? Fill in the form below and tell us about your plans in the EU. We are confident we can find a solution tailored to you.

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