In 2016, the European Commission introduced a concept resembling a tourist visa, called the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). This program was initially set to launch in early 2024 but has faced multiple delays. The EU’s Justice and Home Affairs Council announced on October 19th that the timeline had been adjusted again, pushing the launch to Spring 2025, citing the need for new technology. Initially, ETIAS was planned to be active in 2021 and was then rescheduled for November 2023.
The primary reason for these delays is the construction of another significant IT infrastructure in Europe, the Entry/Exit System (EES), intended to replace manual passport stamping with electronic registration. According to European Commission Spokesperson Anitta Hipper, ETIAS cannot launch until EES is fully operational, as it relies on EES data to identify potential risks. The contractor responsible for these IT systems, eu-LISA, estimates EES will launch in autumn 2024, with ETIAS following approximately six months later.
The delay is attributed to various factors, including delays in system development by the contractor and EU Member States’ preparations for the necessary equipment at border crossing points. The Commission is working closely with Member States and eu-LISA to minimize the impact of these delays and ensure interoperability.
When ETIAS is eventually implemented, travelers from visa-exempt countries, including the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, will need to apply online before traveling to Europe. The application process for ETIAS is relatively quick and straightforward, costing only €7 (about $8) for a three-year approval. Travelers will complete an online form with their biographical information, travel history, and answer security questions. Most travelers will receive approval within an hour, although some may undergo additional security checks, which could take up to 96 hours.
Sojourner White, a remote social worker and travel content creator, who has lived in Europe and plans to return, sees ETIAS as a minor inconvenience, particularly for US citizens who enjoy passport privileges. However, she acknowledges that the constant rescheduling of the program’s launch may confuse travelers. She recommends that travelers stay informed through the US Department of State website and enroll in the Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive notifications of travel-related changes while abroad.