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EU Border Rules: A Comprehensive Guide to Navigating the Waves of Change

As the travel landscape undergoes significant transformations, a wave of new European border rules is set to reshape the way third-country nationals, including UK passport holders, travel to 30 countries. Over the next 12 to 18 months, the European Union will implement changes that include the entry-exit scheme (EES) and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (Etias), akin to the US Esta-style visa waiver.

Reasons for EU Changes:

The roots of these changes trace back to April 2016 when the European Commission envisioned strengthening external borders to safeguard the bloc from external threats such as terrorism and illegal migration.

After negotiations, the EES regulation was adopted in November 2017, and the Etias scheme's regulation came into force in October 2018.

Countries Involved:

The EES/Etias schemes are not universal across all EU members; they specifically apply to countries in the Schengen area. Notable exceptions include Ireland, which stands outside the area, and Cyprus, not part of Schengen, adopting the Etias scheme but not the EES. The list of participating countries includes Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, and more.

The Full list of participants are as follows:

  • Austria

  • Belgium

  • Bulgaria

  • Croatia

  • Czech Republic

  • Denmark

  • Estonia

  • Finland

  • France

  • Germany

  • Greece

  • Hungary

  • Iceland

  • Italy

  • Latvia

  • Liechtenstein

  • Lithuania

  • Luxembourg

  • Malta

  • Netherlands

  • Norway

  • Poland

  • Portugal

  • Romania

  • Slovakia

  • Slovenia

  • Spain

  • Sweden

  • Switzerland

Understanding the EU Entry-Exit Scheme (EES):

The EES, an automated IT system scheduled to launch in autumn 2024, will replace passport stamping by using biometric checks to register travelers' information.

This includes name, travel document type, and biometric data such as fingerprints and facial images, along with recording entry refusals or overstays.

Deciphering ETIAs:

ETIAs, set to launch no earlier than May 2025, is a visa waiver scheme costing €7 per person. It will allow individuals from 60 visa-exempt countries to enter 30 European countries, linked to travelers' passports and valid for up to three years or until passport expiration. However, it doesn't guarantee entry; international tourists will still undergo checks by border guards upon arrival.

Who Needs to Apply:

Approximately 1.4 billion travelers are obligated to submit applications through the yet-to-be-launched ETIAs website. Noteworthy exceptions to this requirement encompass nationals from Monaco, Andorra, Ireland, San Marino, the Vatican, stateless individuals, and holders of a residence permit issued by a country mandating ETIAs.

Issues and Processes:

The launch of Etias has faced delays, initially set for 2022, later pushed to May 2023, and now anticipated from autumn 2024. Travelers are advised to apply well in advance, as processing an application could take up to four days.

Risks and Precautions:

With the rise of fake Etias websites, concerns have been raised about potential scams. A "strong public awareness campaign" is recommended to help travelers distinguish official channels. Travelers should be cautious of fake websites offering early-bird discounts and must be aware that the official Etias website will not accept applications until the scheme's implementation in 2025.

As these changes unfold, staying informed and prepared is key to navigating the evolving landscape of European travel regulations.

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