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Tech Matters: Travel update for anyone planning to visit Europe

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Aug 9, 2023

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Leslie Meredith

If you’ve set your sights on a trip to Europe next year, you won’t be able to breeze through check-in at the airport with just your passport. Beginning sometime in 2024, U.S. travelers, along with those from about 60 other countries who enjoyed visa-free travel to Europe, will be required to present a travel authorization from the European Travel Information and Authorization System, known as ETIAS. This won’t be a lengthy or expensive process like getting a visa, but it will be mandatory. Countries requiring the new authorization include the 27 Schengen countries plus Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus.

According to the European Union’s travel website, travelers will be able to apply for ETIAS using the official ETIAS website or via the ETIAS mobile app once the system goes live. It will cost 7 euros or about $8 to apply, unless you fall under one of the exemptions. You will be exempt from paying if you are under 18 or above 70 years of age or are a family member of an EU citizen.

Once an application has been submitted, it will be automatically cross-checked against the data stored in other European databases, such as the Schengen Information System, Visa Information System and Entry/Exit System. The main purpose of the new travel authorization is to help combat terrorism. It’s similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization program that the U.S. implemented in 2008 for travelers to the U.S. who were not required to obtain a visa. The authorization is good for up to 90 days within a 180-day period, so it’s the correct document for travelers and not for those looking to work or live in Europe. Your ETIAS is valid for three years or until the passport you used in your application expires.

The automatic processing should only take a few minutes, and you will receive your reply by email. However, it could take up to a month if there are questions about your application. Do not leave this to the last minute. Instead, apply about a month in advance of your departure date unless you’re aware that something may cause a red flag such as recent travel to a conflict area. Also, keep in mind that your passport must not expire within three months of your departure date, a requirement for ETIAS and other international travel systems.

There have been misconceptions around what data you will need to provide and ETIAS has published several articles to dispel any false information. You will be asked for your first and middle name if applicable, surname, date and place of birth, nationality, home address, parents’ first names, email address and phone number. You will also need to provide passport details, information about your level of education and current occupation, along with details about your travel plans including which countries you will be visiting. Finally, you will be asked about any criminal convictions, any past travels to war or conflict zones, and whether you have recently been subject to a decision requiring you to leave the territory of any country.

You will need to keep this document at hand and will be asked to show it whenever you enter a European country requiring ETIAS. You will receive your document by email and can save it to your phone. But I would store it on a second device such as a travel companion’s phone in case you lose your phone, and you may want to print it out as well.

Contrary to rumors, you will not need to provide any data related to your health, including vaccination information or biometric data such as a fingerprint.

A word of warning: Already the EU says it has seen unauthorized websites claiming to be official portals for ETIAS authorization. “There are dozens of unofficial ETIAS websites, often pretending to provide official information about the European Union’s upcoming and not yet in practice travel requirements for visa-free nationals, in many languages,” EU officials said. “Many of them illegally use the official EU logo, pretending to be an official EU website, while others already collect travelers’ personal data, which is concerning.”

The official website is https://travel-europe.europa.eu/index_en. While there will be some authorized commercial intermediaries who will apply for ETIAS on behalf of their customers, it is best for you to handle this yourself on the official website. Not only are you providing sensitive personal data but you are also using a credit card, which means you or a trusted family member or friend should handle the application.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.


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