New European travel security system will now apply to British visitors from January 2021

Updated 4 February: This has generated a few questions so I’ve asked and received official confirmation this morning from ETIAS that British nationals who are legally resident in Spain and want to travel to any other country in the Schengen Zone for short-term stays of up to 90 days will need to apply for ETIAS. In the case of such a British national who goes back to the UK and then wants to return “home” to Spain, however, they will not need to apply for ETIAS – providing they can show passport AND a document proving legal residence (currently a Certificado de Registro but to be replaced by a Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero). 

Please bear in mind that this information is as it applies in February 2020. It is possible that along with the Schengen visa waiver already confirmed for British visitors after the Transition Period, some arrangement will be made for them in terms of ETIAS as well. Obviously if there are any changes to this information because of agreements yet to be made, I will update this post.  

Original post 3 February: From January 2021 a new scheme to monitor authorized entry into the Schengen area comes into force. The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (see HERE) will apply to British and other non-EU national travellers who will not be able to enter the Schengen area, which includes Spain, with just a passport. Instead, travellers will have to pay a tariff to visit Europe and must complete an application form online before travel into the Schengen area. 

The ETIAS system will impose the requirement on some 60+ non-EU countries whose nationals can enter the EU without a visa. This includes British citizens as I’ve frequently reported since they have a visa waiver. The scheme is intended to allow the EU to control the security of its borders against those who are not required to obtain a visa, and has been planned for years. It will be employed along similar lines to systems used by the USA and Canada. 

When a traveller applies under ETIAS, the application will be checked against a series of European security databases including Interpol and Europol. Anyone considered to represent a security threat will be refused entry.  

For 2020, as I’ve already explained in the Brexit post, British travellers do not need a visa, and have free movement as though they were still EU nationals because of the Transition Period. After this year, from 1 January 2021, they have a visa waiver, and so come under the terms of the ETIAS scheme. They will be able to enter the Schengen area for as many times as they want for as long as their ETIAS is valid but within the framework of the permitted 90 days in any 180 day period.

ETIAS permits will last three years and will be straightforward to apply for.  Applicants will just need to complete a simple form with personal information, passport details, and answering a few security questions. They will also have to pay a small fee, thought to be in the region of €7. Assuming the application is approved, confirmation will only take up to 20 or so minutes. All carriers, including airlines and ferries, will be obliged to check that passengers have the ETIAS authorization before boarding.   

There is full information on the official ETIAS/Shengen website HERE, but to be explicit, the only connection this has with Brexit is that it would not apply to the UK had the country not left the EU. It is not imposed on the UK because of Brexit but as a natural consequence of it.