Updated 4 August 2021: The European Council confirmed yesterday that as part of the EU’s increased security measures the new scheme will come into place next year to allow the EU to cross-check visa-exempt arrivals in the Schengen area against EU information systems. The rules will apply to all non-EU nationals who now of course include British citizens. Visitors subject to the rules will pay €7 to register and obtain authorization via a three-year pass before travelling. Approval is expected to be very fast, operating in a similar way to the American visa-waiver system ESTA. To clarify one source of British tabloid misinformation, these were rules drawn up not only while the UK was an EU member state but were also voted on by British MEPs; indeed the only reason the UK government didn’t play an active role in setting these rules was because it activated its own opt out … it silenced itself even though it could have argued its case, though that case was a shared view in that time among all EU members, the UK included. So there’s hardly any reason for anyone to complain now. The only connection with Brexit is that in 2016 the UK voted to put itself into the outsider category that it itself participated in developing.
Updated 17 January 2021: The new European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) which was scheduled to come into effect this month has been delayed to next year to allow time for countries to adapt to the new system, the EU has announced. The way the scheme will work is explained in the original post below. Although launched toward the end of 2022 it will not be mandatory until 2023, with a six-month grace period planned to allow eligible travelers to become familiarized with the new regulation. During the transition period, information will be provided at Schengen Area borders making third-country nationals aware of the changes to the EU visa policy. There is further information from the EU HERE.
Original post 3 February 2020: 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 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. Those allowed entry will be able to access the Schengen area for as many times as they want while 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.
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.