The new ETIAS visa, and what it means for travel in Europe
In 2020 the EU is planning to implement a new entry system designed to reduce illegal immigration and beef up security, and this is going to affect how Australians travel around Europe. At its heart the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), adds another layer of approvals to the existing Schengen Agreement as it applies to Australians travelling in Europe.
How much does it cost?
Once the system is implemented in 2020, Australians planning to visit the Schengen Area of the EU will need to apply online for an ETIAS visa. You’ll be asked security questions and required to provide details of your travel plans. You’ll also have to pay a fee, most likely €5. Only adults need the ETIAS visa. Minors – anyone under 18 – will need only their passport.
What are the Rules?
Unless you have the ETIAS visa you won’t be allowed to board any aircraft, ferry, cruise ship or train heading for most of Europe. The visa is valid for three years from the date of issue or until your passport expires, whichever comes first.
Where can you travel?
Once you’ve obtained the ETIAS visa you can travel freely within the Schengen Area, which presently covers most of Europe. The rules for travel within that zone will stay the same as under the existing regulations, namely the right of Australians to stay within the zone and travel freely for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
What About the Visa Waiver Agreement?
Something that the ETIAS does not take into account is the visa waiver agreements that exist between Australia and several European countries, signed back in the 1950s in most cases. Those agreements allow Australian passport holders to stay in these countries, usually for a period of 90 days, and without reference to the 90 days granted under the Schengen Agreement, in effect a top-up.
While a couple of European countries have cancelled their visa waiver agreements with Australia – Greece and Spain are two examples – they’re still in force with a number of significant players including Germany, France, Holland, Austria and the Nordic countries. It might seem therefore, that Australian passport holders would be entitled to make use of these visa waiver agreements even after ETIAS comes into effect.
However once the EU wakes up to the existence of the visa waivers it’s likely they will pressure member countries to cancel those agreements since they represent holes in the security net, which is what ETIAS is all about.
Here’s another rub – at the moment, British passport holders are entitled to travel freely within the Schengen Area and stay as long as they like. Since many Australian residents hold British nationality they also benefit, but once Britain leaves the EU Brits could be regarded as third country nationals, and required to apply for ETIAS clearance on the same basis as Australians.
Note that countries outside the Schengen Area will not require ETIAS clearance.