expat network

Electronic border controls to affect Britons travelling to Europe

electronic border controls

The EU and UK are introducing new automatic, electronic border controls for third-country nationals entering and exiting a territory. It does not apply to holders of residence permits and long-stay visas, says Jason Porter, director of specialist expat financial advisory firm Blevins Franks. 

Note that these new systems are simply travel authorisations for short stays and are not visas. They do not provide permission to enter a country, remain in the country beyond the specified number of days, or to work there. Travellers will need to provide both the authorisation and their passport at the point of entry.

EU Entry and Exit Scheme (EES)

The European Union Entry and Exit Scheme is scheduled to start on 6 October 2024.

This automated IT system will register non-EU nationals each time they cross the external borders of participating European countries. It will apply in all EU member states except Cyprus and Ireland, as well as in Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein (EFTA states).

The EES system will automate border control procedures and replace passport stamping. It will collect personal data provided by the traveller each time they pass the border of an EES-participating country and store this information together with the date and time of their entry or exit.

It will apply to non-EU nationals travelling to a European country, either for short stays of up to 90 days within any 180-day period or on a short-stay visa. Note that the 90 days is calculated as a single period for all participating European countries using the EES.

There are some key exceptions. For example, the EES does not apply to holders of residence permits and long-stay visas, or to non-EU nationals who hold a residence card and are immediately related to an EU national.

The EES system is intended to make it easier to identify travellers who have no right to enter the zone or who have overstayed in the participating countries, as well as to detect false identities.

European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS)

The ETIAS travel authorisation will be an entry requirement for non-EU nationals from visa-exempt countries, including the UK, and an added step before being able to travel to European countries. It is expected to start around six months after the EES has been in operation (with an additional six months grace period allowed for travellers).

Once it is in operation, affected travellers will need to obtain an online permit in advance of travelling to the EU. It will be used in conjunction with the traveller’s passport.
ETIAS covers people visiting the participating countries for short stays. If they have a residence permit they do not need an ETIAS travel authorisation.

Applying for ETIAS

• Applications will be made online through a dedicated website/app. It will be processed automatically within 96 hours, possibly within minutes.
• Applicants will receive an email informing them about the outcome. In some cases, they may need to supply additional information. If the application is refused they will be notified accordingly and have the right to appeal the decision.
• The application fee will be €7 (waived for those under 18 or over 70 years old).
• The ETIAS travel authorisation will be valid for three years. It covers short-term stays of up to 90 days within any 180-day period. Travellers can leave and come back at any time, provided they respect this time limit.
• If their passport expires before three years, they will need to apply for a new ETIAS.

UK Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme (ETA)

The UK Electronic Travel Authorisation is a key part of the UK’s plans to digitise its borders by the end of 2025. It will apply to all nationals who do not currently need a visa to enter the country, which includes EU, US, Canadian and Australian nationals.

It is already open for Qatari nationals and will cover other Gulf states and Jordan from February. The UK plans to extend it to cover EU and other relevant nationals by the end of 2024.

Similar to the EU’s ETIAS, EU nationals will need to apply for the UK ETA in advance. This applies to any affected national visiting the UK, for any reason, for up to six months, including very short stays and transit.

Application will be made online or through a mobile app, with approval granted within 72 hours. It costs £10 and is valid for two years or until passport expiry, whichever is sooner.

If an ETA application is refused, the individual will need to obtain a Standard Visitor Visa. This takes three to six weeks, costs £115, and is valid for six months.