The European Union is delaying the start of its new authorisation programme that requires travellers from 58 countries to obtain pre-approval before entering.
The new system, the Etias (European Travel Information and Authorisation System), was originally due to launch next year but is now expected to be rolled out in 2025.
On Thursday, eu-Lisa – the agency responsible for the digital system – said it needs more time to implement the changes. Many travellers who can currently enter the EU without a visa – such as from the UAE, UK and US – will soon need to apply online before arriving at one of 30 EU countries.
Etias are not visas, but pre-travel authorisation approval for citizens, similar to the Esta visa waiver programme introduced by the US in 2009.
The process will take anywhere from minutes to days to get approved.
The Entry/Exit system – a central database tracking non-EU residents when they enter and leave – will reportedly now come into force in the second half of next year. Following that, the Etias will begin in the first half of 2025.
The Etias programme is set to encompass 1.4 billion people from 58 countries who are currently exempt from needing a visa to visit.
The change will affect a number of countries listed in the top 10 on the Henley Passport Index, including the UK (passport holders can currently access 188 countries visa-free), New Zealand (187 countries), Canada (185 countries) and the US (184 countries).
How does an Etias work?
The authorisation will be linked to a traveller’s passport and valid for up to three years or until the passport expires. Upon getting a new passport, travellers will require updated Etias travel authorisation.
"With a valid Etias travel authorisation, you can enter the territory of these European countries as often as you want for short-term stays – normally for up to 90 days in any 180-day period," says the EU's official Etias website.
"However, it does not guarantee entry. When you arrive, a border guard will ask to see your passport and other documents and verify that you meet the entry conditions."
The EU Etias website says most applications are processed within minutes but some occasions may take up to four days.
The site states: "Please note that this period could be extended by up to 14 days if you are requested to provide additional information or documentation, or up to 30 days if you are invited to an interview."
The information states that travellers should apply for an Etias travel authorisation well in advance of their planned journeys.
Applications will be possible via the official Etias website or mobile application and will cost €7 ($7.80).
Who will have to apply for Etias travel authorisation?
Passport holders from the following countries will need to apply.
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
- Hong Kong
- Marshall Islands
- New Zealand
- North Macedonia
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Solomon Islands
- South Korea
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
Full list of European countries requiring Etias travel authorisation
When the system begins, the following 30 European counties will require visa-exempt travellers from the list above to have Etias travel authorisation. EU country Ireland is exempt from the list.
- Czech Republic