The ETIAS is a new system that is similar to the American ESTA, and that is intended keep track of people who are traveling to countries in the Schengen Zone without the use of a visa. There are currently 61 countries on that list. Those countries are not a part of the EU but residents do not need a visa in order to enter the EU.
Work on the ETIAS system began in 2016, and it is expected that the system will be in place as early as 2021. The ETIAS will perform a background check on each person applying to enter the Schengen Zone. The system will be quicker than using a visa, and it will help to make sure that those applicants are not a security threat. The system will keep track of people who are trying to enter the zone, and can be used for both business and leisure purposes, as well as for those who are just passing through the zone or those who are traveling for medical reasons.
The system, when it is put into place, will be mandatory for all people who want to visit the Schengen zone who are coming from countries that are Schengen visa-free. There will be a fee payable to use the system, and applications will be processed online. The hope is that the system will be as easy to use as the ESTA, and that it will provide applicants with a response to their request to travel quite quickly. Users will need to provide evidence of their identity, and the ETIAS, if issued, will be valid for three years or until the applicant’s passport expires; whichever comes first. People who do not have a valid ETIAS will not be allowed to travel because pre-boarding checks will be performed by carriers.